RESTORATION TRAJECTORY

Assessing the use of UAVs to monitor mine site restoration.

By Todd Buters

Mine site restoration is not only a legislative requirement of mine closures, but is also a means of preserving Australia’s fantastic biodiversity. Monitoring mine site restoration efforts is crucial as it provides early warning of potential restoration failures, which greatly improves the chances of restoring the environment in a timely manner. UAVs are a cheap, easy to operate means of surveying large areas in a short amount of time, and can provide aerial views of an area much more easily and cheaply than a manned aircraft. Able to be outfitted with a variety of sensors, they represent the future of aerial monitoring of flora, fauna, and geological features. Masters student Todd Buters is researching how to apply UAV technology to restoration monitoring.

Background

Mine site restoration is not only a legislative requirement of mine closures, but is also a means of preserving Australia’s fantastic biodiversity. Monitoring mine site restoration efforts is crucial as it provides early warning of potential restoration failures, which greatly improves the chances of restoring the environment in a timely manner. UAVs are a cheap, easy to operate means of surveying large areas in a short amount of time, and can provide aerial views of an area much more easily and cheaply than a manned aircraft. Able to be outfitted with a variety of sensors, they represent the future of aerial monitoring of flora, fauna, and geological features. This Masters project will apply UAV technology to restoration monitoring.

UAV technology has been advancing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and they have been established as a premier remote sensing platform. Their cost, ease and speed of use, and high portability means they can be deployed in even the most remote regions, and the range of sensors they can be mounted with is only increasing (RGB, multispectral, hyperspectral, thermal, etc). This project focusses on the use of RGB and multispectral sensors to monitor the emergence and early establishment of seedlings in restoration efforts. Machine learning will be utilised in order to automate the monitoring, and standard practices for UAV flight profiles will be generated. This project has potential not only for monitoring early seedling establishment, but as a stepping stone for a more complete “one-pass” UAV monitoring standard.

Aims

This project will assess the use of drones as a monitoring tool for mine site restoration. The project has the following goals.

1: Empirically determine the our ability to identify plants at the seedling stage with current UAV mounted RGB sensors.

2: Explore the ability of machine learning techniques to identify seedlings from UAV mounted RGB sensors.

3: Apply validated RGB methodology to determine capacity for large scale automated assessment of restoration sites.

Significance

The use of drones as a platform for remote sensing is a rapidly developing niche globally, and aims to complement rather than supplant older methods such as satellite- or manned aircraft-based remote sensing. The trade-off between cost, resolution and scale will remain a problem in remote sensing for the foreseeable future, and it is likely that UAVs will rapidly become a ubiquitous monitoring tool for small- to medium-scale applications. However, the accessibility of the technology is increasing at a rate asynchronous with our understanding of its potential applications. This project proposes to empirically examine the constraints of UAV application to restoration trajectory monitoring, and aims to develop a standardised cost-effective protocol for drone-based remote sensing for the restoration industry.