Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research





Key words

UAS, unmanned systems, uncrewed systems, remotely piloted aircraft systems, drone, Burmese python, invasive species, wildlife management


Burmese pythons are an invasive, non-native species of snake to southern Florida and attempts at eradicating the snakes had yielded mixed results. The current rate of detection had been reported as 0.05%. The purpose of this research project was to determine if a UAS equipped with a near-infrared (NIR) camera could be used to detect pythons at a higher rate when compared to a RGB camera. The approach involved collecting 55 images from RGB and NIR cameras, over carcass pythons at flying heights of 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 meters. A likelihood ratio consisting of a true positive rate over false positive rate was calculated from 101 participant survey responses. Participants were able to detect pythons from an NIR camera with greater likelihood (M = 6.05, SD = 1.94) than a RGB camera (M = 4.74, SD = 1.32), t(10) = 1.77, p = .048. The data suggests that survey participants could correctly detect pythons in images containing the pythons at a 1.3x greater rate with the NIR sensor than with the RGB sensor. Also, a true positive rate (TPR) showed the observation rate of correctly detecting a python when one was present in the image. The NIR camera images had higher TPR rates compared to RGB images. The largest difference between camera types was observed at the 15 meters flying height over an outstretched python; there was a 35% increase in participant detection accuracy using the NIR camera compared to the RGB camera. These results suggest that a UAS equipped with an NIR camera flying between 3 and 15 meters in a nadir-oriented position of 90 degrees can be used to detect pythons. Using a UAS equipped with an NIR camera over levees searching for exposed pythons may help biologists responsible for managing these invasive species determine if a python is present.



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