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USGS using drones to measure methane escaping Arctic permafrost - Aug 2023

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Detailed Description

As permafrost soils in the Arctic warm and thaw, greenhouse gases including methane are released into the atmosphere. USGS Ecologist Kristen Manies of the USGS Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center (GMEGSC) is researching low-cost ways to measure methane emissions across these changing ecosystems. USGS National Uncrewed Systems Office (NUSO) drone pilots flew uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, equipped with custom methane-detecting sensors in support of Manies’ climate research in coordination with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development collaborators over wetlands at the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest located 20 km southwest of Fairbanks, interior Alaska.

00:05 Top-down aerial drone footage of wooden boardwalks traversing from a forest into a wetland environment.

01:10 Eye-level view of researchers hiking on the boardwalks as the forest opens up to the wetland. 

01:37 The field team works together to place large planks of wood onto the wet soil, creating dry, flat areas for UAS takeoff and landing.

02:02 UAS ascends and flies away from the field team revealing their surroundings: inundated soil, boardwalk network, and forest lining the edge of the wetland. 

02:26 EPA researchers secure their custom methane-sensing payload onto a DJI Matrice 600 Pro (M600) UAS while USGS researchers secure a second methane-sensing payload onto another M600 UAS. 

02:56 UAS carrying the EPA methane-sensing payload starts spinning its propellers and takes flight. The UAS pilot performs a routine check of the roll, pitch, climb/descend, and yaw controls. 

03:26 Eye-level view of UAS flying over the wetland. 

03:50 Drone's perspective footage flying a transect pattern over the wetland, passing by researcher Kristen Manies as she stands next to a static data collection tower. 

04:22 Eye-level view of UAS carrying the USGS methane-sensing payload as it flies a transect over the wetland. 

04:42 UAS carrying the USGS methane-sensing payload descends, lowers its landing gear, and lands gently on wooden planks.

05:11 USGS employee walks down the boardwalk towards the forest in a high-visibility orange vest labeled "USGS."





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