Use of sUAS/UAS to Cost Effectively Monitor Eagle Nesting

ESTCP 2020 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency

It currently takes approximately 960 hours to conduct on-the-ground monitoring of eagle nests at Dugway Proving Ground. Either by foot or by

RC ESTCP POY 2020 Photo

vehicle, monitors must travel to and from distant remote sites while avoiding negative impacts on the birds to be studied. A key species is the golden eagle which is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Lacey Act. 

Samantha Phillips from Select Engineering Services and her team led an ESTCP-funded project that developed Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS)/Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)  technology fit for purpose and demonstrated the use of it as a cost-effective, low impact way to monitor golden eagles on military installations. The primary objective of this project was to reduce the total hours required to monitor the nests and validate the cost effectiveness of using sUAS/ UAS over the traditional monitoring on foot or from a vehicle. A DJI Matrice platform equipped with a Z30 Enterprise camera demonstrated a flight time of 26-32 minutes and a range of up to 4.3 miles. The demonstration was performed at Dugway Proving Ground, which is home to the Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC), allowing the team to conduct end-to-end testing and integration of the sUAS/UAS.

RC ESTCP POY 2

As a result of the project, the team successfully demonstrated a sUAS/UAS monitoring capability that captured still photos and videos of eagle nests and, in turn, streamlined the on-ground monitoring process. The result was a reduction in the overall costs associated with on-ground monitoring. Specifically, the labor costs from field activities to locate and monitor the eagles were reduced. As an additional benefit, the environmental impacts of vehicles driving across sensitive landscapes to gather data were also reduced. 

Ultimately, the project demonstrates improved cost efficiency in the ongoing effort to support the Department of Defense (DoD) mission and protect species such as the golden eagle. For this significant work, Samantha Phillips and her team received the 2020 ESTCP Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency for their project titled,  Use of sUAS/UAS to Cost Effectively Monitor Eagle Nesting.

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