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Drones, Volume 2, Issue 4 (December 2018)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) After years of research in the Heron Island Reef Lagoon with colleagues from Macquarie University, [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle Using Digital Surface Models from UAS Imagery of Fire Damaged Sphagnum Peatlands for Monitoring and Hydrological Restoration
Received: 19 October 2018 / Revised: 19 November 2018 / Accepted: 13 December 2018 / Published: 14 December 2018
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Abstract
The sub-alpine and alpine Sphagnum peatlands in Australia are geographically constrained to poorly drained areas c. 1000 m a.s.l. Sphagnum is an important contributor to the resilience of peatlands; however, it is also very sensitive to fire and often shows slow recovery after
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The sub-alpine and alpine Sphagnum peatlands in Australia are geographically constrained to poorly drained areas c. 1000 m a.s.l. Sphagnum is an important contributor to the resilience of peatlands; however, it is also very sensitive to fire and often shows slow recovery after being damaged. Recovery is largely dependent on a sufficient water supply and impeded drainage. Monitoring the fragmented areas of Australia’s peatlands can be achieved by capturing ultra-high spatial resolution imagery from an unmanned aerial systems (UAS). High resolution digital surface models (DSMs) can be created from UAS imagery, from which hydrological models can be derived to monitor hydrological changes and assist with rehabilitation of damaged peatlands. One of the constraints of the use of UAS is the intensive fieldwork required. The need to distribute ground control points (GCPs) adds to fieldwork complexity. GCPs are often used for georeferencing of the UAS imagery, as well as for removal of artificial tilting and doming of the photogrammetric model created by camera distortions. In this study, Tasmania’s northern peatlands were mapped to test the viability of creating hydrological models. The case study was further used to test three different GCP scenarios to assess the effect on DSM quality. From the five scenarios, three required the use of all (16–20) GCPs to create accurate DSMs, whereas the two other sites provided accurate DSMs when only using four GCPs. Hydrological maps produced with the TauDEM tools software package showed high visual accuracy and a good potential for rehabilitation guidance, when using ground-controlled DSMs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Topographic Mapping)
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Open AccessArticle Estimating Wildlife Tag Location Errors from a VHF Receiver Mounted on a Drone
Received: 9 November 2018 / Revised: 3 December 2018 / Accepted: 7 December 2018 / Published: 11 December 2018
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Abstract
Recent studies have demonstrated the high potential of drones as tools to facilitate wildlife radio-tracking in rugged, difficult-to-access terrain. Without estimates of accuracy, however, data obtained from receivers attached to drones will be of limited use. We estimated transmitter location errors from a
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Recent studies have demonstrated the high potential of drones as tools to facilitate wildlife radio-tracking in rugged, difficult-to-access terrain. Without estimates of accuracy, however, data obtained from receivers attached to drones will be of limited use. We estimated transmitter location errors from a drone-borne VHF (very high frequency) receiver in a hilly and dense boreal forest in southern Québec, Canada. Transmitters and the drone-borne receiver were part of the Motus radio-tracking system, a collaborative network designed to study animal movements at local to continental scales. We placed five transmitters at fixed locations, 1–2 m above ground, and flew a quadrotor drone over them along linear segments, at distances to transmitters ranging from 20 m to 534 m. Signal strength was highest with transmitters with antennae pointing upwards, and lowest with transmitters with horizontal antennae. Based on drone positions with maximum signal strength, mean location error was 134 m (range 44–278 m, n = 17). Estimating peak signal strength against drone GPS coordinates with quadratic, least-squares regressions led to lower location error (mean = 94 m, range 15–275 m, n = 10) but with frequent loss of data due to statistical estimation problems. We conclude that accuracy in this system was insufficient for high-precision purposes such as finding nests. However, in the absence of a dense array of fixed receivers, the use of drone-borne Motus receivers may be a cost-effective way to augment the quantity and quality of data, relative to deploying personnel in difficult-to-access terrain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Monitoring)
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Open AccessArticle Multirotor Drone Aerodynamic Interaction Investigation
Received: 1 November 2018 / Revised: 26 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 3 December 2018
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Abstract
Aerodynamic interactions between rotors are important factors affecting the performance of in-plane multirotor Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) or drones, which are the majority of small size UAVs (or mini-drones). Optimal design requires knowledge of the flow features. The low Reynolds number of many
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Aerodynamic interactions between rotors are important factors affecting the performance of in-plane multirotor Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) or drones, which are the majority of small size UAVs (or mini-drones). Optimal design requires knowledge of the flow features. The low Reynolds number of many UAV rotors raises the question of how these features differ from those expected by traditional analytical methods for rotorcraft. Aerodynamics of a set of side-by-side rotors in hover over a range of rotor separation and Reynolds number is studied using high-speed Stereo Particle Image Velocimetry (SPIV) and performance measurements. The instantaneous and time-averaged SPIV data presented here indicate an increase in inter-rotor wake interactions with decrease in rotor spacing and Reynolds number. A dip in rotor efficiency at small rotor spacing at low Reynolds number is observed through thrust and torque measurements. The basic components of in-plane multirotor wake and velocity profiles are identified and discussed to help generalize the findings to a wide range of drones. However, the data provide confidence in traditional analysis tools, with small modifications. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Drone Monitoring of Breeding Waterbird Populations: The Case of the Glossy Ibis
Received: 1 November 2018 / Revised: 22 November 2018 / Accepted: 27 November 2018 / Published: 1 December 2018
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Abstract
Waterbird communities are potential indicators of ecological changes in threatened wetland ecosystems and consequently, a potential object of ecological monitoring programs. Waterbirds often breed in largely inaccessible colonies in flooded habitats, so unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys provide a robust method for estimating
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Waterbird communities are potential indicators of ecological changes in threatened wetland ecosystems and consequently, a potential object of ecological monitoring programs. Waterbirds often breed in largely inaccessible colonies in flooded habitats, so unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys provide a robust method for estimating their breeding population size. Counts of breeding pairs might be carried out by manual and automated detection routines. In this study we surveyed the main breeding colony of Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) at the Doñana National Park. We obtained a high resolution image, in which the number and location of nests were determined manually through visual interpretation by an expert. We also suggest a standardized methodology for nest counts that would be repeatable across time for long-term monitoring censuses, through a supervised classification based primarily on the spectral properties of the image and a subsequent automatic size and form based count. Although manual and automatic count were largely similar in the total number of nests, accuracy between both methodologies was only 46.37%, with higher variability in shallow areas free of emergent vegetation than in areas dominated by tall macrophytes. We discuss the potential challenges for automatic counts in highly complex images. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Monitoring)
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Open AccessArticle Thermal Infrared and Visual Inspection of Photovoltaic Installations by UAV Photogrammetry—Application Case: Morocco
Received: 27 September 2018 / Revised: 15 November 2018 / Accepted: 15 November 2018 / Published: 23 November 2018
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Abstract
Being sustainable, clean, and eco-friendly, photovoltaic technology is considered as one of the most hoped solutions face to worldwide energetic challenges. Morocco joins this context with the inauguration of numerous clean energy projects. However, one key factor in making photovoltaic installations a profitable
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Being sustainable, clean, and eco-friendly, photovoltaic technology is considered as one of the most hoped solutions face to worldwide energetic challenges. Morocco joins this context with the inauguration of numerous clean energy projects. However, one key factor in making photovoltaic installations a profitable investment are regular and effective inspections in order to detect occurred defects. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are increasingly used in various inspection fields. In this respect, this work focuses on the use of thermal and visual imagery taken by UAV in the inspection of photovoltaic installations. Visual and thermal images of photovoltaic modules, obtained by UAV, from different installations, and with different acquisition conditions and parameters, were exploited to generate orthomosaics for inspection purposes. The methodology was tested on a dataset we have acquired by a mission in Rabat (Morocco), and also on external datasets acquired in Switzerland. As final results, several visual defects were detected in visual RGB and thermal orthomosaics, such as cracks, soiling, and hotspots. In addition, a procedure of semi-automatic hotspots’ extraction was also developed and is presented within this work. On the other side, various tests were conducted on the influence of some acquisition and processing parameters (images’ overlap, the ground sampling distance, the flying height, the use of ground control points, the internal camera parameters’ optimization) on the detection of defects and the quality of visual and thermal generated orthomosaics. In the end, the potential of UAV thermal and visual imagery in the inspection of photovoltaic installations was discussed in function of various parameters. On the basis of the discussion feedback, UAV were concluded as advantageous tools within the thematic of this project, which proves the necessity of their implementation in this context. Full article
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Open AccessArticle UAS-GEOBIA Approach to Sapling Identification in Jack Pine Barrens after Fire
Received: 30 August 2018 / Revised: 13 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 21 November 2018
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Abstract
Jack pine (pinus banksiana) forests are unique ecosystems controlled by wildfire. Understanding the traits of revegetation after wildfire is important for sustainable forest management, as these forests not only provide economic resources, but also are home to specialized species, like the
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Jack pine (pinus banksiana) forests are unique ecosystems controlled by wildfire. Understanding the traits of revegetation after wildfire is important for sustainable forest management, as these forests not only provide economic resources, but also are home to specialized species, like the Kirtland Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii). Individual tree detection of jack pine saplings after fire events can provide information about an environment’s recovery. Traditional satellite and manned aerial sensors lack the flexibility and spatial resolution required for identifying saplings in early post-fire analysis. Here we evaluated the use of unmanned aerial systems and geographic object-based image analysis for jack pine sapling identification in a region burned during the 2012 Duck Lake Fire in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Results of this study indicate that sapling identification accuracies can top 90%, and that accuracy improves with the inclusion of red and near infrared spectral bands. Results also indicated that late season imagery performed best when discriminating between young (<5 years) jack pines and herbaceous ground cover in these environments. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Identification of Citrus Trees from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Imagery Using Convolutional Neural Networks
Received: 24 October 2018 / Revised: 7 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 20 November 2018
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Abstract
Remote sensing is important to precision agriculture and the spatial resolution provided by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is revolutionizing precision agriculture workflows for measurement crop condition and yields over the growing season, for identifying and monitoring weeds and other applications. Monitoring of individual
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Remote sensing is important to precision agriculture and the spatial resolution provided by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is revolutionizing precision agriculture workflows for measurement crop condition and yields over the growing season, for identifying and monitoring weeds and other applications. Monitoring of individual trees for growth, fruit production and pest and disease occurrence remains a high research priority and the delineation of each tree using automated means as an alternative to manual delineation would be useful for long-term farm management. In this paper, we detected citrus and other crop trees from UAV images using a simple convolutional neural network (CNN) algorithm, followed by a classification refinement using superpixels derived from a Simple Linear Iterative Clustering (SLIC) algorithm. The workflow performed well in a relatively complex agricultural environment (multiple targets, multiple size trees and ages, etc.) achieving high accuracy (overall accuracy = 96.24%, Precision (positive predictive value) = 94.59%, Recall (sensitivity) = 97.94%). To our knowledge, this is the first time a CNN has been used with UAV multi-spectral imagery to focus on citrus trees. More of these individual cases are needed to develop standard automated workflows to help agricultural managers better incorporate large volumes of high resolution UAV imagery into agricultural management operations. Full article
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Open AccessArticle A Hybrid Battery Charging Approach for Drone-Aided Border Surveillance Scheduling
Received: 8 October 2018 / Revised: 13 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 18 November 2018
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Abstract
This paper proposes a new method to extend the flight capability of drones in real time. The new method combines two wireless charging methods (stationary wireless charging systems and dynamic wireless charging systems) into a hybrid mode. The drones must frequently return to
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This paper proposes a new method to extend the flight capability of drones in real time. The new method combines two wireless charging methods (stationary wireless charging systems and dynamic wireless charging systems) into a hybrid mode. The drones must frequently return to a ground control center to replace or recharge its battery due to the limited performance of batteries mounted in the drones. To reduce the need of returning to the center, stationary wireless charging systems and dynamic wireless charging systems have been proposed. However, a few drawbacks of the two systems include the needs of landing/stopping on the stationary charging systems and the uncertainty of charging efficiency over the dynamic charging systems. Hence, to resolve the current limitations, we propose the hybrid approach for extending drone flight duration in real time. A mathematical formulation model is proposed to decide an optimal installation location and operating time of the hybrid mode. A case study is conducted to illustrate feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed method. Results from the case study show that we can lengthen the flight duration per charge from the initial launching point (30 min → 32–59 min), and if the value of charging efficiency of the dynamic charging systems is maintained above a certain level, the time spent on the stationary charging systems is significantly reduced (58 min → 22 min). Full article
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Open AccessArticle Drone-Based High-Resolution Tracking of Aquatic Vertebrates
Received: 9 October 2018 / Revised: 6 November 2018 / Accepted: 7 November 2018 / Published: 8 November 2018
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Abstract
Determining the small-scale movement patterns of marine vertebrates usually requires invasive active acoustic tagging or in-water monitoring, with the inherent behavioural impacts of those techniques. In addition, these techniques rarely allow direct continuous behavioural assessments or the recording of environmental interactions, especially for
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Determining the small-scale movement patterns of marine vertebrates usually requires invasive active acoustic tagging or in-water monitoring, with the inherent behavioural impacts of those techniques. In addition, these techniques rarely allow direct continuous behavioural assessments or the recording of environmental interactions, especially for highly mobile species. Here, we trial a novel method of assessing small-scale movement patterns of marine vertebrates using an unmanned aerial vehicle that could complement longer-term tracking approaches. This approach is unlikely to have behavioural impacts and provides high accuracy and high frequency location data (10 Hz), while subsequently allowing quantitative trajectory analysis. Unmanned aerial vehicle tracking is also relatively low cost compared to single-use acoustic and GPS tags. We tracked 14 sharks for up to 10 min in a shallow lagoon of Heron Island, Australia. Trajectory analysis revealed that Epaulette sharks (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) displayed sinusoidal movement patterns, while Blacktip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) had more linear trajectories that were similar to those of a Lemon shark (Negaprion acutidens). Individual shark trajectory patterns and movement speeds were highly variable. Results indicate that Epaulette sharks may be more mobile during diurnal low tides than previously thought. The approach presented here allows the movements and behaviours of marine vertebrates to be analysed at resolutions not previously possible without complex and expensive acoustic arrays. This method would be useful to assess the habitat use and behaviours of sharks and rays in shallow water environments, where they are most likely to interact with humans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones for Coastal Environments)
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Open AccessArticle Monitoring Human Visual Behavior during the Observation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Videos
Received: 21 September 2018 / Revised: 12 October 2018 / Accepted: 17 October 2018 / Published: 19 October 2018
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Abstract
The present article describes an experimental study towards the examination of human visual behavior during the observation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) videos. Experimental performance is based on the collection and the quantitative & qualitative analysis of eye tracking data. The results highlight
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The present article describes an experimental study towards the examination of human visual behavior during the observation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) videos. Experimental performance is based on the collection and the quantitative & qualitative analysis of eye tracking data. The results highlight that UAV flight altitude serves as a dominant specification that affects the visual attention process, while the presence of sky in the video background seems to be the less affecting factor in this procedure. Additionally, the main surrounding environment, the main size of the observed object as well as the main perceived angle between UAV’s flight plain and ground appear to have an equivalent influence in observers’ visual reaction during the exploration of such stimuli. Moreover, the provided heatmap visualizations indicate the most salient locations in the used UAVs videos. All produced data (raw gaze data, fixation and saccade events, and heatmap visualizations) are freely distributed to the scientific community as a new dataset (EyeTrackUAV) that can be served as an objective ground truth in future studies. Full article
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Open AccessReview UAVs in Support of Algal Bloom Research: A Review of Current Applications and Future Opportunities
Received: 29 August 2018 / Revised: 11 October 2018 / Accepted: 12 October 2018 / Published: 17 October 2018
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Abstract
Algal blooms have become major public health and ecosystem vitality concerns globally. The prevalence of blooms has increased due to warming water and additional nutrient inputs into aquatic systems. In response, various remotely-sensed methods of detection, analysis, and forecasting have been developed. Satellite
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Algal blooms have become major public health and ecosystem vitality concerns globally. The prevalence of blooms has increased due to warming water and additional nutrient inputs into aquatic systems. In response, various remotely-sensed methods of detection, analysis, and forecasting have been developed. Satellite imaging has proven successful in the identification of various inland and coastal blooms at large spatial and temporal scales, and airborne platforms offer higher spatial and often spectral resolution at targeted temporal frequencies. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have recently emerged as another tool for algal bloom detection, providing users with on-demand high spatial and temporal resolution at lower costs. However, due to the challenges of processing images of water, payload costs and limitations, and a lack of standardized methods, UAV-based algal bloom studies have not gained critical traction. This literature review explores the current state of this field, and highlights opportunities that could promote its growth. By understanding the technical parameters required to identify algal blooms with airborne platforms, and comparing these capabilities to current UAV technology, such knowledge will assist managers, researchers, and public health officials in utilizing UAVs to monitor and predict blooms at greater spatial and temporal precision, reducing exposure to potentially toxic events. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Autonomous Landing of a UAV on a Moving Platform Using Model Predictive Control
Received: 9 August 2018 / Revised: 9 October 2018 / Accepted: 10 October 2018 / Published: 12 October 2018
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Abstract
Developing methods for autonomous landing of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a mobile platform has been an active area of research over the past decade, as it offers an attractive solution for cases where rapid deployment and recovery of a fleet of
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Developing methods for autonomous landing of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a mobile platform has been an active area of research over the past decade, as it offers an attractive solution for cases where rapid deployment and recovery of a fleet of UAVs, continuous flight tasks, extended operational ranges, and mobile recharging stations are desired. In this work, we present a new autonomous landing method that can be implemented on micro UAVs that require high-bandwidth feedback control loops for safe landing under various uncertainties and wind disturbances. We present our system architecture, including dynamic modeling of the UAV with a gimbaled camera, implementation of a Kalman filter for optimal localization of the mobile platform, and development of model predictive control (MPC), for guidance of UAVs. We demonstrate autonomous landing with an error of less than 37 cm from the center of a mobile platform traveling at a speed of up to 12 m/s under the condition of noisy measurements and wind disturbances. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Biologically-Inspired Intelligent Flocking Control for Networked Multi-UAS with Uncertain Network Imperfections
Received: 26 July 2018 / Revised: 15 September 2018 / Accepted: 27 September 2018 / Published: 29 September 2018
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Abstract
In this paper, a biologically-inspired distributed intelligent control methodology is proposed to overcome the challenges, i.e., networked imperfections and uncertainty from the environment and system, in networked multi-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flocking. The proposed method is adopted based on the emotional learning phenomenon
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In this paper, a biologically-inspired distributed intelligent control methodology is proposed to overcome the challenges, i.e., networked imperfections and uncertainty from the environment and system, in networked multi-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flocking. The proposed method is adopted based on the emotional learning phenomenon in the mammalian limbic system, considering the limited computational ability in the practical onboard controller. The learning capability and low computational complexity of the proposed technique make it a propitious tool for implementing in real-time networked multi-UAS flocking considering the network imperfection and uncertainty from environment and system. Computer-aid numerical results of the implementation of the proposed methodology demonstrate the effectiveness of this algorithm for distributed intelligent flocking control of networked multi-UAS. Full article
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Open AccessReview Person Identification from Drones by Humans: Insights from Cognitive Psychology
Received: 14 August 2018 / Revised: 21 September 2018 / Accepted: 26 September 2018 / Published: 28 September 2018
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Abstract
The deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e., drones) in military and police operations implies that drones can provide footage that is of sufficient quality to enable the recognition of strategic targets, criminal suspects, and missing persons. On the contrary, evidence from Cognitive Psychology
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The deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e., drones) in military and police operations implies that drones can provide footage that is of sufficient quality to enable the recognition of strategic targets, criminal suspects, and missing persons. On the contrary, evidence from Cognitive Psychology suggests that such identity judgements by humans are already difficult under ideal conditions, and are even more challenging with drone surveillance footage. In this review, we outline the psychological literature on person identification for readers who are interested in the real-world application of drones. We specifically focus on factors that are likely to affect identification performance from drone-recorded footage, such as image quality, and additional person-related information from the body and gait. Based on this work, we suggest that person identification from drones is likely to be very challenging indeed, and that performance in laboratory settings is still very likely to underestimate the difficulty of this task in real-world settings. Full article
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