Bird’s Eye View

May 19, 2015

Last week my blog touched on the way water is managed in Fresno, CA, where some residents defy the statewide three-year drought using the pumped groundwater from the Central Valley’s over tapped aquifer to maintain emerald isles of lawns. No sooner was that blog published then on a late season rainy day here in CA, the news reported that in Fresno the rain was a thunderstorm, and it was causing serious flooding. I watched as a woman was interviewed about being rescued from her car, expressing the terror her son had felt as the vehicle was filling up. Here is some reporting on the storm from The Fresno Bee.

It is a complex world, indeed. But many aspects are fairly understandable, and predictable, if we pay attention. With clear understanding, clear choices are possible.

Water resource management is an area being studied into more and more, and I want to suggest a look at a very insightful article from McKinsey: “Rethinking the Water Cycle, How moving to a circular economy can preserve our most vital resource.” This article really speaks to the finite, yet circulating nature of water resources. Among other things it gets to the heart of these questions: If there is an unchanging amount of water on the planet, why is water scarcity such a prevalent topic? Is it just that some places are innately more arid than others? Or is some of the finite resource being rendered unusable by the pollutants of industrialized living? The article answers these questions with clear directives about how to manage water amidst the conditions of the day. It is prescriptive and intended to avert disaster. In my view, it cuts through polarizing political debates by laying out the realities and possibilities.

I titled this blog “Birds Eye View” because this speaks to what I have just shared, bringing the McKinsey article to bear on water management anywhere. “Birds Eye View” also leads into my next topic, that of drones. In a moment I will get into the way that drones are being used in site planning, including the management of watersheds.

I’ve shared in my blogs before that I come from a family of aerospace engineers, and that I seem to have been made from different stuff. In fact, when the family was looking up in the sky at some passing wonder I was likely to have been studying a dandelion puff at the edge of the sidewalk, and when they were focusing on some mechanical contraption closer to the ground, my head was probably in the clouds, but only in their shapes and sizes.

I have to say that skywriting mesmerized me, and I did love a good airplane banner by the seashore in my childhood. “You will grow up to be an editor,” is what one of those banners should have said.

I’m saying all of this because I have tended to pay little attention to the rise of the drone, and yet meanwhile the era of the drone is flying along rapidly. This really came home to me when I saw a newscast from a consumer electronics show that showed a piece of wrist wear that launches off the arm and becomes a drone above the wearer in order to snap a “selfie” from its camera, a nice little distance up and away. Should this become popular, when people see these photos where everyone is looking up as if encountering aliens, bear in mind, the aliens are us. If it has come to this, I need to get educated.

Now unlike me, you probably have been noticing drones, reading news about drones, seeing movies that have drones in them. Like so many human innovations drones have been readily incorporated into war. But they also have peaceful uses beyond the selfie, and I wish to inform you of a Master Class coming up on May 28 through our online education arm, Forester University. Please visit “Drones: Revolutionizing Site Inspections” for more information and to sign up. The course description is also pasted below.

“Drones”: Revolutionizing Site Inspections Master Class

“Drones” or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are quickly emerging as the next wave of technology for site inspections, offering environmental, infrastructure, waste, and construction professionals the ability to acquire high resolution aerial imagery, spatial data, and sensing data thoroughly AND cost-effectively… essentially giving you a bird’s eye view into your site’s layout and behavior. Whether you’re managing watersheds, landfills, or construction sites, UAVs are on the horizon. So, what UAV technology and applications are available today? And what regulations and challenges aren’t far behind?

Join Michael Perez to explore the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs / Drones) in site inspections; the current regulations and opportunities for commercial applications; the implementation best practices (e.g., flight path planning and programming, photogrammetric site visualization, elevation modeling, progress documentation and assessment, etc.); and how you can implement UAVs at your sites as a thorough, cost-effective site inspection tool.

In this webinar, we’ll start by discussing the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in environmental, infrastructure, construction, and agriculture site inspections, and what opportunities these offer your sites. Within this discussion, Perez will outline the different types of UAVs available and their current applications (e.g., progression documentation, photogrammetric site visualization, highly detailed digital elevation models, site assessment, etc.). Building on this foundation, we’ll take a look at Auburn University’s ongoing research, case studies, and aerial video footage focusing UAV applications in erosion and sediment control on construction sites, and the resulting applicable best practices.

Within this discussion we’ll dive into the best practices for implementing UAVs at your site, including: UAV selection, pre-programmed flight patterns planning, inspection, image and data acquisition and analysis, and digital elevation modeling. Perez will outline how you can use photogrammetric techniques to analyze your collected aerial data through the creation of digital elevation models. We’ll also take a look at how remote sensing can help you bridge the gap in scale and resolution between ground observations and acquired imagery from conventional manned aircrafts and satellite sensors.

Perez will demonstrate how UAVs offer you a cost-effective method to adapt image characteristics to the size of the observed objects, to the monitored processes, and to the speed of change within a landscape. Finally, we’ll review the currentand pending regulations for UAV commercial use, what this means to you, and how you can implement UAVs and stay compliant.

At the end of this webinar, you’ll walk away with an understanding of the opportunities and applications for UAVs for variety of environmental, infrastructure, agriculture, and construction sites, as well as an action plan to get UAVs flying at your site.

Learning Objectives 

  • Attendees can expect the discussion and education of the following learning objectives.
  • Learn how UAVs are assisting various inspection, mapping, maintenance, and monitoring applications.
  • Understand how you can apply UAVs to your site to thoroughly and cost-effectively capture, assess, and model site data.
  • Get a bird’s eye view of aerial video footage taken on-site and how you can apply this to your site.
  • Learn about preliminary findings in UAV erosion and sediment control inspections and field assessments from Auburn University’s ongoing research.
  • Understand the current regulations on the use of UAVs for commercial applications.
Again, UAVs are a hot and relevant topic, and it is important to stay current with today’s trends.  I urge you to attend the Master Class coming up on May 28 through Forester University. Visit “Drones: Revolutionizing Site Inspections” for more information and to sign up.
About the Author

Nancy Gross

Nancy Gross is a former editor of Business Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.

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