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  • Writer's pictureRefMap

RefMap partners meet with agriculture specialists for a drone flight demonstration

On the 4th of December 2023, RefMap’s team members from the University of Salford were invited to Chat Moss, a large area of peat bog within Greater Manchester, UK to discuss the future of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in agriculture – particularly in paludiculture (wet agriculture and forestry on peatlands). Our project partner, DronePrep, namely Gareth Whatmore and Karina Nasretdinova, founders of the “SEAD Artists”(a consortium of experts aiming to expand of use of unmanned aircraft systems for agricultural practices) and partners of Drone RePeat project, organised this session inviting also “The Wildlife Trust”, whose purpose is to use the technology for environmentally friendly farming methods, as well as local land owner.

Photo: RefMap colleagues at the University of Salford meet with SEAD Artists and The Wildlife Trust ahead of Drone RePeat discussions

The importance of drones in paludiculture

To embellish these discussions, a drone flight demonstration was conducted by Autospray Systems for the Drone RePeat project, which aims to use drones as a less invasive, time-effective method of sowing/spraying peatland in comparison to traditional practices. The efficacy of using UAS for this purpose was clearly evident, with rice used as an example to show how quickly the quadcopter could evenly distribute seed over a large area, and in a far less destructive and potentially cost-effective way.

Photo: Autospray Systems P100 Pro Agriculture drone demonstration.

During the visit, the team was able to visit an area of peat bog which is currently being restored on the site. It was evident how drones could be used to effectively regenerate the area, which would otherwise prove difficult with terrestrial vehicles. Peatland is a unique and vital habitat that has immense carbon storage capabilities and is of ecological importance to a diverse range of species, including birds. The University of Salford RefMap’s team members who participated in this event were Prof. Mike Wood, Prof David Waddington, Dr Amy Leedale, and PhD researchers Sam Barrett and Glen Hancocks.

RefMap team studies the drone noise impact on wildlife  

The use case held at the peat bog was of direct relevance to RefMap’s main topics and research - the acoustic impact of drones on birds - conducted by Sam Barrett and Glen Hancock, team members of our partner, the University of Salford. Both researchers’ PhDs are linked with our project as they are studying exactly this topic, thus the acoustic impact of drones on the distribution and behavioural responses of birds. During the drone demonstration, preliminary observations of the reactions of different birds to the drone were conducted, which provided exciting initial insights into the relationships between drones and birds in a real-world environment. Additional discussions were then held regarding the potential for future flights to be carried out that will facilitate further research as part of RefMap’s investigation of UAS noise impacts on wildlife.

Visually and acoustically it was quite impressive and different from the smaller drones we have experienced in this project. The maximum take-off weight of this drone at the demo was approximately 100kg with a payload of up to 50kg so it is likely the largest VTOL drone observed yet by the ReFMap team (besides DronePrep)! Stay tuned with us as we are actively working on the next facilitation flights both in Manchester and Cornwall.



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