Skip to main content

A Protocol for Monitoring Coastal Wetlands with Drones

Monitoring plays a central role in detecting climate and anthropogenic stressors and associated changes in wetlands. There is a need for wetland monitoring programs to bridge the gap between ground-based surveys, which can miss important spatial heterogeneity and cause wetland disturbance, and satellites, which have insufficient resolution. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are a solution to bridging this gap. While many reserves have been experimenting with the use of drones, the lack of a standardized protocol posed a barrier to implementation on a broader scale.

A catalyst project brought together six reserves in the Southeast and Caribbean to develop, assess, and collaboratively refine a protocol for drone operation, data management, and data analysis for monitoring wetlands. The project team was able to incorporate drone operation into routine monitoring efforts and create operational, image processing, and image analysis protocols from their work.

The complete protocol and its supplemental documents can be found below.

A Protocol for Monitoring Coastal Wetlands with Drones: Image Acquisition, Processing, and Analysis Workflows

Supplemental Documents

  1. Flight log template (Word Doc)
  2. Packing checklist - Duke example (PDF)
  3. Pre-flight checklist - Duke example (PDF)
  4. Pre-flight flight log checklist - GTM example (Word Doc)
  5. Field monitoring equipment list example (Excel)
  6. ReadMe - NC example (Word Doc)

Brandon Puckett1, Cristian Falvo2, Charlie Deaton1, Brittany Morse3, Erik Smith3, Justin Ridge2 

1North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve 
2Duke University Marine Laboratory 
3North Inlet‐Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve