Birdsong TW, M Bean, TB Hardy, TB Grabowski, T Heard, D Holdstock, K Kollaus, S Magnelia, & K Tolman. 2015. Application and utility of a low-cost unmanned aerial system to manage and conserve aquatic resources in four Texas rivers. Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 2:80-85.
Low-cost unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have recently gained increasing attention in natural resources management due to their versatility and demonstrated utility in collection of high-resolution, temporally-specific geospatial data. This study applied low-cost UAS to support the geospatial data needs of aquatic resources management projects in four Texas rivers. Specifically, a UAS was used to (1) map invasive salt cedar (multiple species in the genus Tamarix) that have degraded instream habitat conditions in the Pease River, (2) map instream meso-habitats and structural habitat features (e.g., boulders, woody debris) in the South Llano River as a baseline prior to watershed-scale habitat improvements, (3) map enduring pools in the Blanco River during drought conditions to guide smallmouth bass removal efforts, and (4) quantify river use by anglers in the Guadalupe River. These four case studies represent an initial step toward assessing the full range of UAS applications in aquatic resources management, including their ability to offer potential cost savings, time efficiencies, and higher quality data over traditional survey methods.