The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and validate the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for monitoring training disturbances across environmental conditions and identify the most cost-effective manner and system components with which to obtain required natural resource and training land assessment data. Researchers will achieve this by comparing the effectiveness of multiple UAS with standard on-the-ground and remotely sensed monitoring methods with respect to repeatability, complexity, data quality, cost, and time requirements; improving and documenting protocols and lessons learned from demonstration/validation for incorporation into programs of record for UAS platform requirements and costs, as well as operational requirements and other limitations; and providing a Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) mechanism to support installation land monitoring programs.

Technology Description

This project will demonstrate and validate four representative UAS types against three standard land impact survey methods used by Department of Defense (DoD) installations. This not only allows for increased evaluation of systems to be utilized, but allows user requirements and protocols to be evaluated simultaneously by an actual end user for greater applicability and technology transfer. This project will validate the selection of the level and type of UAS, the level and type of sensors, and analysis protocols/software required to replace current land impact inspection methods. The utility of imagery and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) collected with UAS will be demonstrated for its effectiveness in delineating areas where tracked and wheeled vehicles have compacted vegetation and disturbed soil. The goal will be to identify and demonstrate the most accurate and cost-effective sensor/platform combination for assessing vegetation compaction/removal.


When equipped with useful sensors and scaled to a DoD-wide range and land use, UASs and associated data processing tools present compelling opportunities to improve data quality and density while significantly reducing costs. If scaled to every major installation in which the DoD which performs post-exercise land disturbance (approximately 14 million acres), the potential savings are significant, roughly estimated at $15 million per year. UAS utilization to identify hazards can improve training safety and potentially save a life. Moreover, there are significant ancillary UAS uses, from assessing damage related to a severe weather event, to inspecting construction sites for permit compliance, to acquisition of LiDAR data. This effort will provide installations with a low-cost capability to rapidly detect and assess damage and identify problems. This project enhances the DoD’s ability to sustain rigorous training and extensive construction activities while promoting land stewardship, and will validate developed methods while providing installation-level environmental staff with important and useful information for safe, cost-effective monitoring and management of natural resources on DoD installations. Results and guidance will be applicable for all DoD installations.