JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With an eye toward re-opening recreational oyster harvesting in Northeast Florida, the Marine Science Research Institute, Department of Geography and the Environment, and the School of Aviation at Jacksonville University have launched a crowdfunding project with Experiment.com aimed at using drones to measure the health of local oyster beds.
With a campaign target of $4,300 and a few weeks left to raise funds, the project, titled “Mapping Northeast Florida Ecosystems with Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” is being guided by Assistant Professor of Aeronautics Ross Stephenson.
Beginning in January, taking advantage of a graphics computer and Pix4D software that will be acquired with funds raised, students and professors from Aviation, Geography and the MSRI will partner to use the School of Aviation’s DJI Inspire 1 unmanned aircraft systems to create orthomosaic maps and 3D models of Northeast Florida oyster reefs. The maps and findings will be presented to the backers of the project as well as partners for further analysis of the rate of growth of the reefs.
A video explaining the project can be seen here.
Harvesting oysters in Northeast Florida was halted when the monitoring stations used to assess the health of the beds were discontinued more than 15 years ago. There is growing interest in reopening the beds to commercial and recreational harvesting, and developing a cost-effective method of monitoring the health of the oyster reefs without damage to the ecosytem is vital.
“This allows database information to be collected in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner,” Stephenson writes at Experiment.com. “UAS represent a low carbon footprint solution as compared to manned aircraft … Information gathered through this research will be used to assess changes to the reefs over time and make recommendations to governmental entities about reopening the oyster beds for harvesting.”