Cyberhawk supports environmental consultant with drone based rail surveys

Case Study

Cyberhawk supports environmental consultant with drone based rail surveys

Cyberhawk was recently selected to complete two railway surveys in the north of Scotland, near Inverness, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). With the two routes stretching across 15km, the survey was required to gain an initial understanding and gather an up-to-date record of the various trackside habitats such as salt marsh, coastal areas, forests, farmlands and open water in order to identify potential ecological constraints.

Cyberhawk was contracted to complete this survey on behalf of Ecus Environmental Consultants. Typically, this job would be completed by ecologists on foot, however due to project specific challenges and restricted timeframes Ecus decided to look at a more innovative approach to overcome the problems.

Using UAVs for this project meant that a much greater area could be covered in the constrained time than traditional methods. Aerial images provide a useful means of assessing and characterising habitat types according to recognised JNCC Phase 1 Habitat Survey classes. In certain situations it may be possible to identify the boundaries of vegetation stands, and whilst drones provide a means of collecting data efficiently over an extensive area, they are also useful when surveying sites where access on foot is difficult, e.g. bogs, watercourses, cliffs, intertidal habitats.

Cyberhawk completed the 15km route in under one week and delivered an orthophoto image to 1.5cm resolution. This data provided the ecologists at Ecus with a detailed overview of the types of habitats located along the route, and what types of protected species to look out for during further investigations. The aerial data can also be referred back to if future site works are carried out and changes to the surrounding habitats need to be monitored. Cyberhawk was selected for this project as they are one of the few UAV service providers on the Network Rail Framework therefore able to fly over Network Rail assets.

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