The U.S. Department of Defense is funding a study to determine how drones could help the military mitigate storm damage and monitor forest fires at training facilities along the North Carolina coast.
Researchers at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment received a $954,000 grant to demonstrate how DOD land managers could use commercial drones to map beach topography and sea turtle nesting sites at amphibious training locations and other coastal installations.
“We’ll be demonstrating the use of drones to study coastal erosion. That’s an important factor for places where they use the beaches for training exercises and try to understand how climate may be affecting them.”
Associate Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation and Ecology Dave Johnston says specially equipped unmanned aircraft systems will also be used to manage wildfires and monitor controlled burns in the Croatan National Forest.
“We’ll be using drones that use thermal sensors to be able to help with wildfire projects, detect hotspots and different wavelengths of infrared light to be able to see through smoke.”
Johnston says using drones to track a fire’s progression is faster, safer and cheaper than traditional operations. The three year fire and coastal management study will begin this summer.