The Minnesota Land Trust urgently needed to collect topographic and surrounding bathymetric data from the Interstate Island wildlife management area (WMA), located along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border in the Saint Louis River. The data would help support an Outdoor Heritage Fund habitat restoration project slated to start as soon as possible.
However, Minnesota weather in December can be challenging and unpredictable. When the project began, there was only limited ice in the river, and launching a boat from a nearby landing to transport staff to the island seemed feasible. However, the night before the planned fieldwork, the wind switched directions and compacted a 2-inch-thick layer of ice around the landing and Interstate Island WMA. The ice proved to be too thick to navigate with a boat and too thin to safely walk the half-mile to the island.
Barr offered to use an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) quadcopter to capture topographic data. Upon client approval, one of Barr’s licensed drone pilots and an employee acting as an observer quickly planned the ground-control layout and conducted the UAS flight to capture the necessary data safely from shore. The work, completed in less than six hours and for well under the initial scope’s budget, yielded high-resolution orthoimagery that the Minnesota Land Trust could immediately use to begin developing restoration designs and to identify locations for conducting bathymetry surveys.