Use of drones for monitoring natural and agricultural ecosystems

The participants of the international COST HARMONIOUS training school at Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Villach; Image rights: Geoinformation@FH Carinthia
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Geoinformation und Umwelt

31 young researchers and scientists from 13 different nations took part in the international training course "COST HARMONIOUS 2020" - "Monitoring Natural and Agricultural Ecosystems with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)" at Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Villach from 25.2. - 29.2. 2020.

In the research and innovation network "COST HARMONIOUS" scientists from all over Europe are working on the harmonisation of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, "drones") as a promising innovative technology in the field of environmental monitoring. UAS are developing radically and offer an extraordinary opportunity to bridge the existing gap between field observations and traditional airborne and spaceborne remote sensing.

Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, represented by the study programmes Geoinformation and Environment, Spatial Information Management and the research group SIENA, has been participating in the COST action HARMONIOUS ("Harmonization of UAS techniques for agricultural and natural ecosystems monitoring") since autumn 2018. COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a European funding organisation for the establishment of research and innovation networks.

10 experienced scientists from the "ETH Zurich", the "Università degli Studi di Palermo", the "University of Naples Federico II", the "Czech University of Life Sciences Prague", the "University of Liège", the "University of Twente" and "Carinthia University of Applied Sciences" taught 21 young researchers from all over Europe and Israel both theoretical and practical basics in the use of drones to observe natural and agricultural ecosystems. Topics such as drone flight planning, photogrammetric processing, drone based monitoring with different optical sensors for the detection of soil moisture and plant stress as well as basics of the quantitative assessment of change processes were discussed.  

Environmental monitoring plays a very central role in the diagnosis of climate and management impacts on natural and agricultural ecosystems, in improving the understanding of hydrological processes, in optimizing the allocation and distribution of water resources, and in the assessment, prediction and even prevention of natural disasters. In this context, the use of UAS, the application and use of which is rapidly growing in the scientific community, represents one of the greatest potentials.

Several new UAS based techniques have recently been developed to monitor groundwater content, vegetation status, dynamic development of rivers and their flow behaviour.  Within the framework of COST HARMONIOUS these different measurement methods, algorithms and data assimilation procedures will be harmonized to improve the efficiency and quality of environmental monitoring. Harmonized monitoring processes will be established, the use of field observations will be expanded by promoting new monitoring strategies, data transfer will be facilitated, and know-how in the field of UAS-based environmental monitoring will be deepened through interdisciplinary networking, exchange and training. More than one hundred scientists from 36 countries participate in this COST Action.


Prof. Dr. Gernot Paulus, MSc.
Geoinformation and Environment; Spatial Information Management; Research Group SIENA
Engineering & IT, Carinthia University of Applied Sciences
Europastrasse 4, A-9524 Villach, Austria
+43 5 90500 2240