Two years ago I started to build my own UAV quadcopter. In the last few years technological leaps in especially battery performance has made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) accessible to DIY enthousiast and scientists alike. These UAVs, or drones as they are often called within a military context, provide a cheap platform for aerial observations with various sensors.
The initial idea came as part of an effort to extend the efforts of the PhenoCam network, a near surface remote sensing network of red–green–blue cameras to study of seasonal leaf development. A key advantage of near surface remote sensing is that it allows seasonal leaf dynamics to be monitored at high temporal frequency and over broader spatial extents relative to visual observations or above- and -below canopy radiometric measurements (e.g. fAPAR). Given the nadir looking position of a UAV which corresponds better to satellite remote sensing platforms compared to the tall tower based cameras this was a logical progression. However, at the time commercial offerings were scarce and expensive. As such I started to build my own UAV.
This project has seen some progress, with a few blog posts on my custom airframe. However, due to legislation issues in the US with respect to the commercial nature of research activities this project has been put on hold for now.