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Drones help EGLE accomplish mission, avoid bald eagles in 2021

Tom Gauthier of EGLE's AQD staff using a drone to measure site specific meteorological dataAs part of National Drone Safety Awareness Week, today's MI Environment story looks at how EGLE uses drones to carry out its mission.

The drone program at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has successfully avoided eagles for the past year, while continuing to assess and protect Michigan's environment in new and innovative ways, reports Art Ostaszewski, EGLE's drone program coordinator.

Several EGLE divisions are now using drones for aerial reconnaissance:

  • The Water Resources Division is using a drone with high resolution thermal imagery to look for illicit connects and groundwater seeps.
  • The Air Quality Division mounted an air quality mobile lab on an Inspire2 drone to assess potential source gas emissions at altitude.
  • The Materials Management Division is using the latest drone technology to assist in radiation surveys, collecting data in areas that are difficult or impossible to access.

Now in its fifth year, the drone program at EGLE continues to do landfill inspections, stream and sediment assessment, wetland identification, scrap tire use/site review, and research and development into uses such as water sampling.

The use of drones for processing imagery is growing. It offers new tools and techniques to help staff identify issues of concern on large acreage sites, where a walkthrough or access is not be feasible, but critical for assessment purposes.

Ostaszewski notes that drone operators continue to help EGLE divisions determine if drones could assist with their mission to protect public health and the environment. "Together we soar - as far away from eagles as feasible," he says.

How to avoid an eagle-drone attack

EGLE has taken a number of actions to minimize the risk of having another bald eagle attack on one of its drones, including: 

  • Painting "eyes" on certain drones, which has been shown to deter avian predator attacks at airports.
  • Assessing the risk of a location for a potential eagle nesting or perch areas, such as river corridors, Great Lake shorelines, and active landfills, which are popular with eagles, perhaps due to large number seagulls.
  • Considering the use of a larger drone, which cannot be confused as a seagull.
  • Developing a set of evasive maneuvers to take when an attack is imminent.

Photo caption: Tom Gauthier of EGLE's AQD staff using a drone to measure site specific meteorological data.

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