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Ground Proving Through Overflying

Visual inspection using overflying by drones to reduce impact of foot traffic

Above everything else the most time consuming occupation for expedition research projects is often the slow laborious examination of ground on foot prior to commencing meaningful work.

Several members from a variety of disciplines may be involved and each one plants their own small permanent record of presence on the surface of the land merely by walking around. It has already been well studied, documented and confirmed that anthropogenic activity in areas of fragile tundra with even sparse vegmat can cause long-term damage that may, in certain cases be, irreversible. One only has to witness the caterpillar tracks in Bellsund, still visible after many decades, to see the frightening reality of this.

Even more dramatic than this is the evidence of old camps sites where the vegmat has been damaged, and in certain cases completely removed, sometimes merely by inadvertent surface compaction, serves to reinforce this potential damage.

It is these facts that have led us to consider the suitable alternative of trying to establish suitable small areas for project examination by overflying the general topography using drones fitted with high resolution cameras. It is felt that this operation would not only give a good overview of the ground selected for attention but provide a lasting record of the general area as first visited.

There are of course some negative possibilities to consider, probably the worst of these being the potential loss of a vehicle through system failure or poor piloting, resulting in the vehicle being unable to be recovered and therefore becoming itself a pollution item. With the continuing technical developments seen during the past five years, resulting in more reliable units, easier handling and more robust units, the possibilities for catastrophic failure have been reduced. It is proposed therefore that the Group undertake a project on this as a stand alone topic and see if any real results may be obtained of mileage saved by the use of drones in order to reduce the amount of foot slogging that would otherwise be required to cover the same amount of ground. Through this both single, and more importantly repeated, journeys will be reduced, in certain cases, negated completely, and the foot traffic required in and around areas containing vegmat may dramatically be reduced. This would seem to be particularly relevant in extreme regions and since the proposed area planned for this current expedition is Bockfjorden, some of the highest latitude land in the Archipelago, it would seem singularly appropriate to undertake this serious work as a landmark attempt to reduce the effect of the human footprint to both the vegmat and the bare ground.

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