Some cool best drone pictures images:
The pilot zipped open his backpack, grabbed the drone named after a certain know-it-all “Star Trek” character and assembled it in seconds.
“I don’t know if Spock’s ever flown,” said Guilbert Dustin, manager of the BLM’s growing drone operation.
The drone, or unmanned aircraft system according to the Bureau of Land Management, is a quadcopter that weighs just over 3 pounds and is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
While going through preflight safety checks, Dustin explained that all 77 of the BLM’s quadcopters have character names from his favorite TV shows, including “Seinfeld,” “South Park” and “M.A.S.H.”
“We had a naming party,” he said.
Once powered on and take-off is announced, the four legs spring straight up off the ground. Pilots then do quick mid-air diagnostics as the propellers hum like an electric yard tool.
Less than three years ago, during the first BLM drone flights in Oregon, this process was drastically different.
Back then, the BLM and U.S. Geological Survey were jointly testing military hand-me-down drones decommissioned from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
One 20-pound drone, the T-Hawk, was nicknamed the “flying chainsaw” because of the incredible level of noise it produced; as it turns out, noisy drones are good for neither downrange military operations nor scientific data gathering.
Decibel level was not the only problem with the old Department of Defense drones, however. All of them operated on DOD-only frequencies, which meant another administrative hurdle in getting flight clearance. It could take months of paperwork before the small handful of pilots for the Department of Interior could get a drone project OK’d.
The goal of the BLM’s two-person drone program is to get this new technology to the field office level where it is most needed, in the safest, most efficient manner, said Dustin, who repeated his mantra of “national standard, local capability.”
“If I’m driving down the road and I see an eagle’s nest in that tree, and I happen to be the person responsible for inventorying that stuff, I should be able to stop my truck, check what airspace I’m in, make a phone call to let someone know that I’m flying, go fly it, and get on with my day,” explained Dustin.
“We’re trying to enable people,” he added.
Ron Dunton, the former assistant director of BLM Fire and Aviation, said he was excited the moment he heard “backpack drone.”
“I can recall when I was a field person, if you had one of those in the back of your pickup, you could have saved hours and hours hiking to look over the next ridge,” said Dunton, who recently retired after 43 years with the BLM.
“The opportunities are almost endless,” he said, adding that the ,200 price for each drone package is significantly cheaper than the costs associated with hiring manned aircraft.
While the old drone systems were “cumbersome,” as Dustin put it, they were still able to complete virtual surveys and other core BLM missions, enough to convince the agency there was promise in the new technology.
“They’re safer, they’re cheaper, they’re easier to operate,” said Dustin of the new 3DR Solo quadcopters. At the time of publishing, the drone program boasted over 1,000 takeoffs and landings on the 3DR Solo without a mishap, according to numbers tracked at the DOI and BLM level.
Despite being only 10 inches tall and capable of flying just 20 minutes on one battery charge, as far as the Federal Aviation Administration is concerned, the quadcopters are aircraft. Therefore, all DOI pilots are first required to pass a FAA training course before they can be eligible to fly for agency-level work.
The drones are limited to a flight ceiling of 400 feet and must remain within sight of the pilot at all times.
During the drone training this spring at the BLM’s Horning Seed Orchard, about an hour southeast of Portland, Oregon, there were four groups of pilots learning how to fly their quadcopters. It was the agency’s fourth of five drone trainings planned for the current fiscal year, with a total of 61 new pilots expected to be certified by the department.
Teague Mercer, a hydrologist for the BLM in Coos Bay who took the training, said the small drone could be perfect for monitoring a stretch of coastline on the southern Oregon Coast that has constantly shifting dunes and water levels.
“To get that kind of localized, high-resolution data is absolutely prime for managing that in the best possible way,” said Mercer of the New River area.
John Ciccarelli, a videographer for the BLM in California, was particularly excited about filming public lands from the sky and getting the types of aerial shots viewers are becoming more accustomed to seeing.
“It’s a game changer for our video program — all of multimedia,” said Ciccarelli.
For the first time this fire season, some BLM crews will have trained drone pilots, allowing them to deploy quadcopters to map the perimeter of a wildfire, said Matt Dutton, drone training coordinator for the BLM.
“Just kind of getting that bird’s-eye perspective and data, with some lesser degree of coordination than a helicopter,” described Dutton.
Certified pilots who passed previous trainings have already flown a number of BLM-specific drone missions across the country: monitoring prescribed fires in Alaska; surveying cultural sites in Montana; and studying more hydrology projects in Idaho.
And now the weather is turning towards summer, the season for outdoor research gathering.
“This will really be the first summer where we have 40 or 50 people out doing UAS projects with their own equipment, so it’s really exciting,” said Dustin, using the acronym for unmanned aircraft systems, which was also emblazoned on his custom red hat.
The FAA estimates that there will be 4.8 million drone sales in 2017, with that figure projecting up to 7 million drones sold in 2020. Those estimates represent sales for both the hobbyist, like the pilot who crashed into the bleachers at a San Diego Padres baseball game this season, and commercial operations, like Amazon, the online sales giant still obsessed with drone delivery.
Other government agencies, of all levels, also continue to explore the opportunities of drone use for scientific research.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been teaming up since 2005 to fly drones above and directly inside hurricanes.
And in the northern reaches of the Oregon Coast Range, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with Oregon State University to use quadcopter drones for elk surveys.
So far in 2017, the BLM represents more than half of all the drone flights for agencies within the Department of Interior, which includes the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others.
While giving his students an imaginary training scenario — flying over a lava flow to capture images of an eagle’s golden eggs — DOI instructor Steve Stroud said the BLM was a leader with its drone program because of the dedicated staff positions and custom training.
And then he told his admittedly nervous student to send the drone 2,000 feet away, where it was still visible, but just a black speck above the canopy of Douglas firs.
“BLM is well ahead, well ahead,” he said, never taking his eyes off the student pilot.
— by Toshio Suzuki, firstname.lastname@example.org, @toshjohn
Video by Gil Dustin, BLM
2-Partners for Resilience I legacy, Uganda
Image by Climate Centre
With the country facing a major food-security crisis, a new drone shoot by the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has illustrated the climate-related challenge facing the north, as well as the legacy of community-based actions to increase resilience developed from 2011 to 2015 as part of the Partners for Resilience alliance: CARE Nederland, Cordaid, the Netherlands Red Cross, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Wetlands International and their national partners who include the URCS. Please go to climatecentre.org and check our Vimeo site. ‘Video grab’ here shows a drought-resistant cassava plantation in Soroti. (Denis Onyodi/URCS-Climate Centre)