Dodgy weather didn’t stop ‘high-flyers’

Regular readers and followers of the Forum’s activities may be aware that we have since 2016 undertaken an Annual Sphagnum Survey on Thorne Moors SSSI, generally around the beginning of November and which is a good time to search out interesting bryophytes including Sphagna on the site.

Ahead of this years fieldwork, intrepid surveyors took Desmond the #NatureHack Drone out on an adventure to ‘fly’ the Southern Canals on Thorne Moors.

An early start was necessary not just because it is a large area but because rain and winds were forecast for later in the day.  So, despite the threats of dodgy weather we had to grab the opportunity of this window of opportunity on Wednesday.

It was no mean feat getting Desmond to the Southern Canals, hats off to Mark for his strength and stamina with the box of kit.  The next task was to get to an area where the drone could be launched and where it could land after completing the programmed flight.  We needed to be in the centre of an area which would provide a 500m distance to all points of the compass so an ideal series of aerial images could be obtained.  Despite the terrain, akin in parts to a jungle we achieved our goal.  On each of the two bases a number of flights were launched and landed.

It was a fascinating procedure to observe and assist with.  The way that the eBee Drone is constructed and prepared for flight.  The installation of two cameras and Lithium batteries which required regular changes because battling the wind used more energy than had it been a still day.  Wednesday’s wind speed reached 10 metres per second at times which is just below the maximum that the Drone is able to fly at.  Desmond was programmed to fly c.90m above ground level in order to achieve useful data to inform the Sphagnum Survey in November.  The preparation involves a pre-set route over the target area and the landing is also planned.  The flight was also voluntarily registered with the CAA via a phone App.  Our luck held and Desmond had soft landings on bracken fronds with just one nose dive into a heather plant, but it didn’t even scratch or ‘bloody’ his nose.

It was a long day, and tiring because of the terrain but thanks to Mark and Clare from #TeamNatureHack around 900 aerial images were taken.  These after processing (estimated to be around 15 hours of work) will inform planning for the November Sphagnum Survey.  To see a video of the launch technique employed by Mark see here and to watch how Desmond lands safely here

If anyone reading this has an interest in bryology, sphagnum in particular and would like to join us on Friday 15 November then get in touch for more details via execsec@thmcf.org

No ‘animals’ were harmed in this exercise, all returned safely and as far as I am aware no unwanted hitch-hikers were found …. but they are sneaky little critters, so watch this space for updates on the adventure and the next phase.

Note also that all the necessary permissions, licences and health and safety procedures were complied with, please do not try this ‘at home’ as they say.

Desmond ready for take off hrk DSCN9788 Crop

Desmond the #NatureHack drone, ready for take off

 

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