AeroVironment using its UAS to assess environmental impact of Woolsey wildfire in California



In an effort to help assess the environmental impact of the Woolsey wildfire in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area of Southern California, AeroVironment is offering its UAS services to support the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program.

AeroVironment Commercial Information Solutions Unmanned Aircraft Systems flight operations and Geographic Information Science teams have launched a comprehensive UAS-based aerial imaging and environmental impact study to gauge fire damage in key areas of the park. The aerial imagery data collected will be used for a variety of purposes, including to quantify oak tree mortality and vegetation stress, and to document the dramatic changes in park visitor experience.

The Woolsey wildfire burned almost 97,000 acres, destroyed more than 616 park structures and consumed approximately 88% of National Park Service land within the recreation area.

Featuring hiking trails and historic structures, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is home to a number of different indigenous plants and animals, including multiple protected and endangered species.

“Reaching just a few miles from our operations, the Woolsey fire directly impacted numerous AeroVironment team members and families in our community,” says Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business.

“Within hours of receiving National Park Service clearance, our flight operations team began flying Quantix over the affected burn area, collecting invaluable aerial imagery data – and providing any support needed to help the park’s disaster assessment and recovery efforts.”

As Flittie notes, AeroVironment used its Quantix hybrid UAS and Decision Support System (AV DSS) advanced data analytics platform to capture and analyze high-resolution UAS-based aerial imagery to not only quickly map the affected burn area, but also to gain actionable insights into the scope and scale of the damage.

Data collected provides immediate disaster response and damage assessment, and will also lead to the development of a long-term environmental recovery and park rebuilding strategy.

With the Quantix hybrid UAS innovative VTOL technology, operators can effectively fly in a variety of conditions, and can survey up to 400 acres in just 45 minutes.

While flying, Quantix integrated sensors capture high-resolution RGB color and multispectral imagery via dual 18MP cameras. Additionally, on-board processing delivers true color and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) maps on the Quantix control tablet as soon as the UAS lands, which allows teams to immediately ground-truth potential issues.

For more detailed analysis, AV DSS performs advanced image processing and data analytics including True Color, NDVI, GNDVI, and anomaly detection, which helps gain deeper insights into environmental damage and vegetation health.