Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013UT190B

Capturing Aerial Imagery on the San Rafael River, Utah, Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to Monitor and Assist in Evaluating Restoration Efforts

Institute: Utah
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $19,088 Total Non-Federal Funds: $44,623

Principal Investigators: Bethany Neilson, Ian Gowing

Abstract: The San Rafael River in south-central Utah is in a severely degraded state and listed on the 303D list of degraded waters. It has a low abundance of native fish species, poor fish habitat quality, limited native riparian vegetation recruitment, and abundant stands of non-native tamarisk. A large-scale restoration scheme is being implemented by both federal and state agencies and other entities, including the Utah Water Research Laboratory at Utah State University. The AggieAir Flying Circus, a service center at the Utah Water Research Laboratory which provides high resolution multispectral aerial imagery using a UAV was contracted in 2011 by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to fly the lower 50 miles of the San Rafael River to provide high resolution aerial imagery after a high river flow event. As a result of the proposed project, the San Rafael Restoration Committee will integrate the high resolution imagery that the AggieAir Flying Circus can provide, along with the analysis of the data contained in the imagery, as an integral component in the San Rafael restoration effort. It is expected that the data and analyses provided by the AggieAir Flying Circus will significantly improve the information content of the entire data collection effort of the San Rafael restoration process, and that significant research questions on the effects of tamarisk control on river morphology will be made easier to answer. The project will also yield significant research results on the accuracy and limitations of inexpensive UAV platforms to provide data, such as digital elevation and terrain models, in place of more conventional--and much more expensive--approaches, such as LiDAR.