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How does the USGS use uncrewed aircraft systems?

The USGS National Uncrewed Systems Office (UAS) and the Office of Aviation Services are leading the development and testing of UAS scientific and resource management technology across the Department of the Interior in coordination with the other bureaus.

Department of the Interior UAS capabilities support a range of activities including scientific research, monitoring environmental conditions, analyzing the impacts of climate changes, responding to natural hazards, understanding landscape change rates and consequences, conducting wildland fire assessments, wildlife inventories, supporting search and rescue, and supporting related land management and emergency response missions. The Project office is also working across the federal government with NASA, NOAA, DHS and DoD, and with academia, on the evaluation of UAS capabilities.

Examples of USGS uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) missions include: 

  • Estimating migratory bird populations (sandhill cranes and sage grouse)
  • Monitoring impacts of dam removal and erosion on rivers (Elwha and Glines dams, and Missouri River)
  • Surveying surface mines (West Virginia)
  • Locating and mapping abandoned solid waste (Mojave National Preserve)
  • Assessing park boundaries while detecting invasive species (Haleakala National Park).
  • Rapid response volcano monitoring (Kilauea)