AeroVironment UAS Aids National Park Recovery Efforts from Woolsey Fire


Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) company AeroVironment Inc. is supporting the National Park Service’s (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring Program to assess the environmental impacts of the recent Woolsey Fire in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area of Southern California.

Burning over 96,949 acres, the wildfire destroyed more than 616 park structures and consumed approximately 88% of NPS land within the recreation area, says AeroVironment. Working in close collaboration with NPS park rangers and scientists, AeroVironment initiated a drone-based imaging and environmental impact study to assess fire damage in key areas of the park. Aerial imagery collected will be used to quantify oak tree mortality and vegetation stress, as well as document the dramatic changes in park visitor experience.

Using AeroVironment’s Quantix hybrid drone and AV DSS, a data analytics platform, the team captured and analyzed high-resolution aerial imagery to quickly map the affected burn area and gain actionable insights into the scope and scale of the damage. In addition to immediate disaster response and damage assessment, the data will facilitate the development of a long-term environmental recovery and park rebuilding strategy, says AeroVironment.

The Quantix vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drone can survey up to 400 acres in 45 minutes and capture high-resolution RGB color and multispectral imagery via dual 18MP cameras. On-board processing delivers true color and normalized difference vegetation index maps on the Quantix control tablet as soon as the drone lands, allowing teams to ground-truth potential issues immediately. For more detailed analysis, the AV DSS performs advanced image processing and data analytics.

“Reaching just a few miles from our operations, the Woolsey fire directly impacted numerous AeroVironment team members and families in our community,” says Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s UAS business. “Within hours of receiving National Park Service clearance, our flight operations team began flying Quantix over the affected burn area, collecting invaluable aerial imagery data and providing any support needed to help the park’s disaster assessment and recovery efforts.”

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