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Abstract

Small-scale remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) have been experimentally used in environmental fieldwork. They have found employment in range management, forestry, wildlife studies, crop monitoring, marine investigations, and aerobiological sampling. The advantages of small-scale RPVs include pilot safety, fast data turnaround time, low capital and per-flight costs, ease in flight planning, quick response for targets of opportunity, and the potential to gather ultrahigh resolution pictures in situations where in situ data gathering is impossible. Significant limitations of small-scale RPVs include their low stability as photographic platforms; short flight times, airframe fragility, the paucity of sensor packages available, and the difficulties involved integrating pilot-assist flight navigation systems. Further development is required before small-scale RPVs will be accepted as mainstream tools for environmental monitoring. Besides discovering and validating environmental applications of the technology, this work includes the design of inexpensive lightweight sensor packages for environmental tasks and the improvement of image processing algorithms to interpret, rectify, and manage RPV imagery.