Ground-level Unmanned Aerial System Imagery Coupled with Spatially Balanced Sampling and Route Optimization to Monitor Rangeland Vegetation

J Vis Exp. 2020 Jun 14;(160). doi: 10.3791/61052.


Rangeland ecosystems cover 3.6 billion hectares globally with 239 million hectares located in the United States. These ecosystems are critical for maintaining global ecosystem services. Monitoring vegetation in these ecosystems is required to assess rangeland health, to gauge habitat suitability for wildlife and domestic livestock, to combat invasive weeds, and to elucidate temporal environmental changes. Although rangeland ecosystems cover vast areas, traditional monitoring techniques are often time-consuming and cost-inefficient, subject to high observer bias, and often lack adequate spatial information. Image-based vegetation monitoring is faster, produces permanent records (i.e., images), may result in reduced observer bias, and inherently includes adequate spatial information. Spatially balanced sampling designs are beneficial in monitoring natural resources. A protocol is presented for implementing a spatially balanced sampling design known as balanced acceptance sampling (BAS), with imagery acquired from ground-level cameras and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). A route optimization algorithm is used in addition to solve the 'travelling salesperson problem' (TSP) to increase time and cost efficiency. While UAS images can be acquired 2-3x faster than handheld images, both types of images are similar to each other in terms of accuracy and precision. Lastly, the pros and cons of each method are discussed and examples of potential applications for these methods in other ecosystems are provided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards*
  • Photography*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Remote Sensing Technology / standards*