A lot of my work is about microvariation in landscapes, and how this hidden world is wat really matters to nature. Mapping this microvariation however gives some big challenges, because for an optimal view of variation, you should look down on the world from above. It is unfortunately impossible to get such an overview of a landscape from our approximate 1 meter 70 of human height.

Drone and the keep of Loches

Drone with camera

However, scientist can now make use of a fantastic new tool, allowed by the commercial availability of drones. As they are steadier than every other flying object before, capable to move in all possible directions and can hang mouse-still in the air, camera’s attached to drones are the perfect way to capture landscape variability in a scientifically usable way.

Drone image of the hotel in Loches

Drone demonstration at the Heteroclim Conference in France

While regular imagery with drones is now almost an affordable buy for individuals, the technique needs some more years to get easily applicable for thermal imagery (its main possible application in my research). Thermal cameras are still very heavy and ask for heavier and bigger drones, at ten times the price of the regular ones.

Agricultural Thermal Landscape

Thermal image of an agricultural landscape, clearly showing the regular patterns created by humans

For now, I can only admire and promote the work of my colleagues in France and hold on to the fact that similar, even more applicable, scientific results can be obtained with a good set of dataloggers (my own precious iButtons!). The possibilities for microclimate research are however endless, so this drone is definitely high on the wish list!

Scientists admiring the test flight of the drone

Impressed scientists under a test flight

More info soon: Faye et al. Strong discrepancies between operative temperature mapping and interpolated climatic units in agricultural landscapes. Submitted to Global Change Biology.

    Drone flying over Loches

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