Conservationists, researchers and volunteers have spent countless hours on the ground keeping tabs on water quality in rivers across the country. Their work has been instrumental over the years, and new technology in the form of drones is making their jobs a whole lot easier.

These unmanned aircraft, referred to as drones or UAVs, are easy to control and have become cost-effective in recent years. Environmentalists are using them to monitor ecosystems from the skies and are able to carry out their goals with more efficiency than ever before.

Related: Drones — the future of ocean conservation

“The technology has come along to the point where everyday people can put a camera up in the air and see beyond the tree line or their property line,” Ben Cunningham, a coordinator working in the field for the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, explained.

According to Maryland Reporter, Cunningham’s team is keeping an eye on the construction of controversial pipeline projects in Virginia. The drones enable them to see a wider field of view without investing a lot of money or time. The new technology is even superior to what many government officials have in their inventory.

Based on numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration, there will be close to seven million drones sold in 2020. That is almost three times the number of unmanned crafts purchased in 2016.

These drones range from small quadcopters to more sophisticated airplanes, and many of them are as simple to use as a remote-controlled car. Most drones are also able to take photographs and feature auto-pilot once they are in the air.

When it comes to pipeline construction, environmentalists are using drones to take snapshots of the construction progress. They then use the photos to measure how the construction is affecting local environments, including Bay grasses and algal blooms along riversides.

Without the drones, these types of large-scale efforts would not be possible without considerable funding and volunteer forces.

Because drones are relatively new to the scene, researchers are hoping that they can expand their capabilities and achieve even greater results in the near future.

Via Maryland Reporter

Image via Paul Henri