Olaf Schroth uses drone to map invasive vegetation

Dr Olaf Schroth and MA student Chaoming Li with their drone on Blacka Moor ©Nabil Abbas

Dr Olaf Schroth is using a drone to map invasive vegetation on Blacka Moor, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on the fringes of the Peak District.

Olaf, who is Lecturer in Landscape Planning in the Department of Landscape, is using the DJI Phantom 2 drone to gather close range aerial images, which can be used to map the areas in which bracken and non-native trees are affecting the moorland.

The Blacka Moor nature reserve comprises of 181 ha of moorland, grassland and woodlands and has been managed by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust since 2000. The trust are currently implementing an eight year management plan, which aims to return woodland areas to oak and birch, restore its features of interest, such as the heather covered moorland patches, whilst protecting and conserving the open views across the nature reserve.

Dr Schroth’s images will be used to plan volunteering work days, where the bracken and other invasive species can be removed. The images are much higher resolution than those taken from planes or satellites, because drones can fly at very low altitudes – in this case 60m above the ground. It is also easier to fly over an area multiple times.

UK law prevents drones being flown near people, cars or buildings or above 120m in height. Olaf’s team employed two spotters to warn the drone pilot if walkers were approaching. Efforts were also taken not to fly during bird breeding season or near grazing cattle, in order to minimise the impact on wildlife.

Department of Landscape MA student Chaoming Li was involved in this research, helping to gather images.

Olaf said: “in the future, we hope to apply UAV-based close range aerial imagery to identify and map invasive species in inaccessible areas. UAVs could become an important tool to monitor the spread of invasive species and inform conservation measures.”

This research is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences #DigitalSociety research theme

The Blacka Moor management plan can be read here.