Drones Spurning New Wave of Curiosity, Innovation by Amateur Scientists


Last winter, a meteorologists warned cities about El Niño, an irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region.

Considering how the weather change was going to affect the areas, researchers at the Nature Conservancy in California prepared to mobilize and use a different surveillance strategy: commercial drones.

In January 2016, the new program started, and the Nature Conservancy researchers decided to get pilot licenses, in order to fly drones themselves. Also, they managed to recruit citizen scientist, but the data collection wasn't organized.

But, before they deploy an unmanned vehicle, scientist explained amateur pilots the kind of data they were looking for.

“The importance of the pilot project was to figure out how citizen science data can be useful,” says Kirk Klausmeyer, a spatial data scientist with the Nature Conservancy, “and how it maybe wasn’t as useful as we were hoping.”

“We were hoping that the drone operators would be able to get out in a very narrow window of time, during these extreme high tides,” says Klausmeyer.

Klausmeyer isn't the only one having a hard time organizing community drones. Britta Ricker, geographic information scientist at University of Washington, Tacoma, has had difficulty getting a couple of citizen drone science projects off the ground.

After the FAA updated their drone regulations last summer to make licenses for commercial operation less complicated to obtain, Klausmeyer got a commercial drone license and now collects drone data for the conservancy himself.

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