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Why does the USGS use uncrewed aircraft systems?

Uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) provide an affordable solution when the USGS needs "eyes in the sky" but doesn’t have the budget to maintain a fleet of aircraft or to obtain commercial imagery.

The USGS relies on a variety of remotely sensed data. UAS can provide a range of remote sensing data types, from aerial images to hyperspectral or Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data at resolutions down to a few centimeters. UAS are most useful for data collection at local scales such as a wildlife refuge or national park, and augment the data provided by manned aircraft or satellites. For many situations, UAS technology provides a safe, cost-effective, and flexible approach for collecting timely data.

UAS technology minimizes the exposure of personnel to risk because personnel are not onboard the data collection platforms themselves and do not have to physically access dangerous areas (such as cliff faces or treetops) that would expose them to possible injury.

Learn more: USGS National Uncrewed Systems Office