A toast to COAST-E

At the CRCL, we’ve been wondering: “What can we use to increase the speed and detail of the scientific monitoring our projects require?” Also: “What tool can illustrate the remarkable work of our volunteers while adding engaging context on the locations of our restoration sites?” We’re happy to report that the answer to both questions is a flying robot. With its powerful motors, advanced camera and adorable googly eyes, our drone is critically useful for our efforts.


The Coastal Observation Aerial Systems Technology‑Environmental class (COAST-E), our lovingly decorated DJI quadcopter, has been hard at work creating high-resolution 2D and 3D maps along with imagery and videos. Our maps show detailed topography and even the shape and height of trees. Over successive flights, these maps will provide a bird’s-eye view of the changes that occur in the months and years after a restoration project had been started. We expect to be able to track rates of erosion and changes within the vegetation that will help us assess the performance of our plantings. The drone’s 12-megapixel camera also takes some truly breathtaking photos and videos, including action shots of volunteers at work in picturesque landscapes. 


While our drone makes many tasks far easier, like all aspects of coastal restoration, using it is not without its challenges. High winds, which are frequent along our flat coast, can inhibit flight. Software costs and computer processor requirements make it prohibitively expensive to fully render drone maps in house.


Fortunately, the CRCL is forming a strong partnership with Nicholls State University’s geomatics department to access their drone resources and provide Nicholls students the opportunity to work with us in the field. In the fight against land loss, the more alliances the better. 


Aerial monitoring is proving to be a tremendous resource in our efforts to better understand the regions we restore. As drone technology continues to advance, the CRCL will be well poised to take advantage of falling costs and increasing functionality to further our core tenets of outreach, advocacy and restoration in securing the future of our coastal lands. 

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