There is a slow, but growing, use of drones in the field of conservation. Drones are “unmanned aerial vehicles” or UAVs, sometimes referred to as flying robots. They allow for access to areas that might be off limits to other aircraft, vehicles, even foot traffic.
Jim Whaley, a Rhode Islander but yearly visitor to Triggs Island in Lake Wentworth, describes himself as a “drone hobbyist”. He has been using his machine to take aerial pictures and videos of Lake Wentworth and nearby localities. His autumn video can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/tyzJG_dq1qQ and his winter scene at htps//youtu.be/ygill.w1HcJPE or under “Lake Wentworth, Wolfeboro NH”. He plans on adding to the series.
Whaley’s most recent adventure is taking video and stills of Warren Brook for the Lake Wentworth Foundation. His pictures and videos will be posted for viewing on the Foundation’s website (www.lakewentworthfoundation.org).
According to the website DIY Drones, the remote controlled flyers are being used by conservationists for “surveying wildlife, monitoring and mapping terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and supporting the enforcement of protected areas”. Land trusts and organizations such as the Lake Wentworth Foundation are required to monitor each parcel of conserved land yearly. Drones can be extremely helpful in this monitoring, particularly if the land is difficult to access or extremely large. In addition, flyover videos and pictures supplement observations from ground monitoring by providing a very different and broader perspective .
Whaley says his drone is “a Quadcopter Phantom 3 by DJI. It weighs about six pounds and is the size of a two-slice toaster. It has a range of about 1.2 miles, can climb to about 1,640 feet, and stays active for about 25 minutes on a charge. It takes about a half hour to recharge the battery so I keep two on hand, charging one while the other is in use.”
The aircraft is somewhat weather sensitive. Whaley keeps it out of wet or snowy situations. Since it travels at a maximum speed of about 20 mph, you have to make sure it’s flying in winds much less than that. The GPS software will automatically return the drone to its starting point or zero in on an object you “told” it is “home”. It can hover, dip, turn, reverse, rise and fall and do other maneuvers depending on how the operator uses the two joystick controls on the command box.
The drone is best used in open areas without heavy tree cover or buildings. Consequently, it has limitations for some conservation purposes. But with more experience, Whaley is sure he’ll be able to maneuver the instrument into tighter and more remote places.
The Lake Wentworth Foundation is a key leader in developing the Lake Wentworth/Crescent Lake Watershed management plan and a steward of over 170 acres of conserved land within the watershed. It has set a goal of reducing the phosphorus in Wentworth and Crescent lakes by 15% in ten years and is pursuing conservation of additional high-impact parcels of land in the watershed. For years, LWF has provided support for water quality testing, milfoil treatment, and the lake host program led by the Lake Wentworth Association.
Information about the Foundation and its work is available on its website, www.lakewentworthfoundation.org or by contacting Karen Burnett-Kurie at 603-534-0222.