New York Agency Touts Progress Using Drones For Conservation, Emergency Response Work

The New York Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner cites drone usage behind more efficient work and the ability to save taxpayer dollars.

by Gordon Block, Watertown Daily Times / October 2, 2017

(TNS) -- Officials with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation are touting their efforts to use drones as a part of their environmental management and emergency response efforts.

The department’s 22-drone fleet is used for a variety of purposes across the state, including the north country.

“The use of drone technology will help us do our jobs better and faster while saving taxpayer dollars,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a provided statement. “We live in a changing world with technological advances being made at an exponential rate, and (unmanned aerial vehicles) give us a safe and efficient way to collect and analyze data, assess threats to the environment and quickly respond to emergencies.”

In St. Lawrence County, drones are used for mapping of phragmites, an exotic invasive plant, at the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area.

The DEC said its drones have helped ensure existing stands of phragmites are identified, preventing new infestations and habitat loss.

Drones were also used to map a two-mile stretch of eroded coastline on Lake Ontario, assessing damage and confirming properties on a dune system were safe.

The department said the drones allowed them to avoid weeks of on-the-ground surveys.

Other uses for drones touted by the DEC include oil spill monitoring, bat cave surveying, traffic monitoring at the state fair and conducting search and rescue following natural disasters in Texas and Puerto Rico.

The DEC had its 14 drone pilots train for months with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research team and with SkyOp, a private drone company, at Griffiss International Airport in Rome. The airport is one of only six national test sites in the nation.

The drones are equipped with both standard and thermal infrared cameras and can legally fly at heights below 400 feet.

The DEC said they are in the early stages of determining what kind of public drone use will or will not be allowed on most state land. However, they said drones will not be allowed on lands classified as wilderness in the Adirondack and Catskill parks and areas classified as primitive and canoe in the Adirondack Park.

They said the proposed policies will be subject to a “robust public comment period” in the coming months.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.