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Advancing Remote Sensing Techniques with Drones to Map Coastal Ecosystems

Recently, grants from the EEA funded a bilateral initiative on the exchange of knowledge and experience of remote sensing methods to map coastal biological communities using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Drones are the future for mapping and monitoring of nature and natural resources, says NIVA-scientist Kasper Hancke. Image Credit: K. Hancke, NIVA.

The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) and Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) of the University of Porto are the partners in this initiative.

Coastal ecosystems offer a range of ecosystem services to mankind such as natural resources (fish, shellfish, and seaweed), coastal protection from waves, carbon sequestration, and water purification.

In accordance with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), tracking seaweed assemblages helps ensure useful predictions of the coastal environment status and offers proof for environmental variations, necessary to implement efforts to realize or retain the Good Environmental Status as characterized by the MSFD.

From July 2018, CIIMAR has been formulating a novel study on the use of aerial images to map coastal ecosystems and evaluate seaweed standing stocks, as part of the project “SWUAV: Mapping the intertidal zone and assessing seaweed biomass using UAV images.”

NIVA has also been leading numerous initiatives regarding this subject, with the most recent one being Seabee—a Norwegian Infrastructure for drone-based study, tracking, and mapping in the coastal regions.

This bilateral initiative will promote collaboration between researchers of both institutions by discovering synergies for achieved advanced knowledge in this research field. The goals of the project are as follows:

  • Enhance bilateral relations between Norwegian and Portuguese researchers by exchanging knowledge and experience in UAV remote sensing methods employed to map coastal biological communities
  • Support future partnerships for collaborative research projects
  • Impart the knowledge acquired to stakeholders and the scientific community engaged in the coastal resource management

The findings of the project are as follows:

  • To expedite the development of new tools and techniques for aerial image classification
  • Publishing scientific papers that examine and compare such methodologies
  • Design future collaborative research projects either as part of EEA Grants or different programs

This collaboration will enable designing protocols for scheduling and executing missions using drones (UAVs) for tracking the coastal environment.

Drones are the future for mapping and monitoring of nature and natural resources.

Kasper Hancke, Senior Research Scientist, Norwegian Institute for Water Research

Hancke added, “The collaboration with CIIMAR was financially supported through EEA which is a valuable partnership improving the prosperity of drone-based coastal observations.”


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