UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), also known as drones, are currently increasing in importance for geosciences. This is particularly true for remote sensing, where they complement conventional platforms such as airplanes and satellites with their advantages in terms of economy, availability, flexibility and resolution, thereby opening up a whole range of new opportunities.
That is why the 10 UAVs currently in use for scientific work within the section Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics are considered an important part of its infrastructure. They are supplemented by more UAVs that are used in cooperation with other sections. Below we describe some of the aircraft, sensor systems, and typical applications of our drones (smaller drones used for education and training are also important, but not listed).
Various application-specific in-house designs from the GFZ geodesy workshop are used with an Optris PI450 thermal camera and a MicaSense RedEdge-M multispectral camera, for example for projects on the consequences of heat stress on vegetation and soil or for the detection of plastics in the environment. In addition, various quadcopters from the DJI Phantom family are used primarily for photogrammetry tasks in the investigation and evaluation of geohazards and for vegetation mapping in the context of larger projects. In addition to modern photogrammetry software (Pix4Dmapper and Agisoft PhotoScan), self-developed machine learning methods are applied to evaluate the data.
Two larger octocopters (Copter Squad RTK-X8 and BFD XQ-1400S) are in use for hyperspectral imaging. For the visible and near infrared (VNIR) respectively the short-wave infrared (SWIR) spectral region they are instrumented with one of the two hyperspectral cameras Cubert UHD 185-Firefly or HySpex Mjolnir S-620. Projects related to geological exploration, mineral detection for environmental monitoring or phytomining make use of these sophisticated systems. Fixed-wing VTOL Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift and quadcopter SUI Endurance UAVs are used with a specially developed trace gas and flow sensor system in the context of climate studies to determine the greenhouse gas exchange between earth and atmosphere. Within the same project a quadcopter DJI Matrice 100 serves as a platform for the further development of the unmanned aircraft measurement system.
In order to make better use of the possibilities of this still relatively new infrastructure, employees of the section are involved in a GFZ UAV group that also cooperates with other institutes across centers. Likewise, their contribution to the work of the multinational unmanned aviation association UAV DACH serves to further develop the UAV application in geosciences, which can help to solve the major social challenges we are facing in this field and which increasingly require the use of the latest technologies.
Publications & Highlights
Neumann, C., Schindhelm, A., Müller, J., Weiss, G., Liu, A., Itzerott, S. 2021 - The Regenerative Potential of Managed Calluna Heathlands—Revealing Optical and Structural Traits for Predicting Recovery Dynamics - DOI
Neumann, C., Behling, R., Schindhelm, A., Itzerott, S., Weiss, G., Wichmann, M., Müller, J. 2019 - The colors of heath flowering – quantifying spatial patterns of phenology in Calluna life‐cycle phases using high‐resolution drone imagery - DOI
Sachs, T., Zöllner, M. (2019) - A new UAS System for Airborne Eddy Covariance Measurements of Heat and Carbon Fluxes - Abstracts, AGU 2019 Fall Meeting - San Francisco 2019
Cunliffe, A. M., Tanski, G., Radosavljevic, B., Palmer, W. F., Sachs, T., Lantuit, H., Kerby, J. T., Myers-Smith, I. H. 2019 - Rapid retreat of permafrost coastline observed with aerial drone photogrammetry - DOI
Neumann, C., Behling, R., Itzerott, S., Weiss, G., Wichmann, M., Müller, J. 2018 - The Diversity of Heath Flowering Phenology– Revealing Fine Scale Patterns of Heterogeneity by High Resolution Drone Cameras - Proceedings, 10th International Conference on Ecological Informatics: translating ecological data into knowledge and decisions in a rapidly changing world
"Zu Gast auf dem Telegrafenberg - Reportage: Wissenschaftliche Drohnennutzung am Deutschen GeoForschungsZentrum in Potsdam" in DRONES 02/2020 (Wellhausen & Marquardt Mediengesellschaft)
"Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter - Jan Schönberg im Gespräch mit Mathias Zöllner" in DRONES 01/2020 (Wellhausen & Marquardt Mediengesellschaft)
„Drohnen nützen bei der Lösung großer gesellschaftlicher Herausforderungen“ - Interview mit Mathias Zöllner, Ingenieur in der Sektion Fernerkundung und Geoinformatik
"Drohnen für den Naturschutz - Drohnen machen Naturschutz möglich, wo kein Mensch hin kommt" in Spektrum 10/2019 von Ralf Stork