Drones for Forest Landowners
By George Giltner
One of the newest evolving gadgets for farmers is camera drones. The technology has recently changed into “smart” flying cameras that offer a multitude of uses. Even a first glace at a one of these visual choppers scares off many potential users, but the flying has been greatly simplified and is reportedly fun to operate. A quick search on the internet yields numerous videos of instructions, flight trials, and aerial views that seeds landowner’s usage.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter
Forest landowners need close aerial, visual information. For example – When smoke is in the air, a quick flight of a 20 minute battery operated flying camera could spot the location and extent of a local fire. Then response time could be minimized to reduce damage and intensity. With state fire teams stretched to extremely low numbers, a quick response by local landowners equipped with plows, sprayers, and rakes could put out initial small fires.
The eye in the sky can also observe suspicious activity. Trespassers, illegal hunters, parked cars around the property boundary, nearby logging operations, etc. can be viewed without risk and the effort of time. These cameras can range to 300 yards. Also they can be fitted with wide angle to narrow vision lens.
Some four-legged animals can really be a pest around a tree farm. Feral hogs, loose cows from a busted fence, coyotes, and even deer can be located easily from an above live camera video feed to an iPhone attached to the flight controller. On the ground this would be impossible, as bushes just a few yards away can hide a piney woods rooter. However, you would not want to launch a Quadcopter around trees, especially in winds.
Your investment for a good camera system is usually beyond $1000, therefore having it hung up 100 feet into a Longleaf pine, and then dropping to ground would be a disaster. A cleared out loading zone is ideal for launches and retrievals. If you drop the controller and the power is lost, no problem – a GPS system like the Phantom 2 goes into auto-retrieve mode and flies back to the launch site for a landing. This also applies when the limit range is overreached.
With a high visual view, problem bug sites can be identified. Also the quickest route can be determined and saved for an up-close examination of the infection. In years of outbreaks of southern pine beetles, this can be a priceless tool for the landowner. In two weeks time a 40 acre plot could be destroyed within two weeks time, like in the late 70’s and 80’s.
In our Louisiana woods, slews, creeks, marshes, and other obstacles make havoc of a “quick walk in the woods”. A man plowing fire lanes became lost overnight in a creek bottom as he went for a diesel can ‘just across the creek’. Other stories were common until the age of cell phones, GPS, and updated aerial maps.
Therefore with a little investment in time and a moderate investment in technology, a modern forest manager can have an excellent tool for aerial observation and historical photography. Beyond the forest business, aerial cameras are used for outstanding photography, hobbies, security, and family fun. They are definitely worth investigating for your use.