Droning On. What's Your View?

April 19, 2017
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones as they are often referred to are frequently in the news, and not always in a positive light.

However, from the perspective of environmental monitoring, and more specifically to monitor catastrophic events, they can prove to be an invaluable tool.


What’s your view?

The person

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with someone recently who is looking into this in more detail. Dr Monica Rivas Casado is a Lecturer in Environmental Statistics at Cranfield University. Dr Casado utilises advanced statistical techniques, to design robust environmental monitoring protocols.


A key component of these projects is access to high-quality data, to improve the accuracy and density, and provide the raw material for statistical analysis and modelling. Dr Casado works at the interface between technology and modelling.

The benefits

Increasingly UAVs are being used by environmental researchers and disaster response teams to capture detailed information after catastrophe events. The outputs of which can be employed by the insurance market, and other modelling programmes.


UAVs have great potential within the context of catastrophe risk assessment as they can be deployed on-demand (anywhere / anytime) when catastrophe occurs. The technology is able to provide high resolution aerial imager of up to 2 cm, thus delivering more accurate data products than those available fro traditional remote sensing methods (e.g., satellites).  This cost-effective off-the-shelf technological solution comes in different forms and shapes (rotors/fixed wings) but their small size and lightweight makes them easy to transport and deploy. Their range of more than 2000 m, caped to 500 m by aerial regulation, enables the collection of data remotely without the need to access the affected area and reducing the risk of on-site operators.


Your view

Dr Casado is working on a Project funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to carry out a market analysis drones as a technology.


A brief 2 part questionnaire is designed to understand UAV usage, and part 1 covers questions such as:


  • Are they being used?
  • Will they be utilised in the future?
  • If they are being used, what products are being used in conjunction?
  • Are there specific products needed to support the use of UAVs better?


Part 2 deals with potential changes in legislation, and how this might affect use.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released a consultation, with a view to increasing the regulation around UAV usage.  Some of the areas being considered include:


  • The adoption of a number plate system.
  • Electronic identification of drones.
  • Increased insurance premiums for UAV operators.


If these proposals become law, will these have an impact on the use of UAVs in catastrophe assessment?


A survey to understand drone usage is available online here. All responses must be in by 1st May 2017.


If you would like to contact Dr Casado directly, she can be reached by phone on +44 (0) 1234 754433 and Email: m.rivas-casado@cranfield.ac.uk

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