Images by Pete Kauhanen

SFEI has invested in novel, cost-effective solutions to costly problems. Most recently, our work with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has yielded some very promising results. We have collaborated with our colleagues at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) to field test a UAV and apply it to a number of scientific challenges. In the course of this research, we have derived some useful analysis on the use of the technology.


  • Repeatability of flights before and after events (autonomous flight paths)
  • Sensing of sensitive and hard to reach areas (marshes, water, native plants etc.)
  • Quick turnaround (12 hour processing)
  • High resolution and comprehensive datasets


Example of Countours.PNGServices/Potential Projects:

  • Virtual fly throughs
  • Cross sections
  • Volumetric calculations
  • Inspections of infrastructure
  • Mapping of vegetation (spectral signature, elevation)
  • Monitoring of restoration sites
  • Trash detection
  • Sediment monitoring/quantification
  • Levee inspection
  • Detection and scoring of wetland quality

Results/ Products:


  • ½ inch (or higher) resolution imagery
  • Digital Surface Models (DSMs)
  • 3D models/meshes
  • Point Clouds
  • PDFs

As our work in this area of inquiry continues, we will be applying the tool to more projects, thereby producing new data and analyses that can more efficiently address scientific questions at new scales and levels of detail.


Associated Staff: 
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Geographic Information Systems
Location Information