Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) have made dramatic technical advances in the past decade. Their use domestically is currently tightly constrained by existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Within the next few years, the FAA is expected to provide a regulatory framework that allows for a greatly expanded role for UASs in domestic airspace for a wide variety of applications. One of those will be remote sensing for land and natural resource monitoring. While there has recently been a large body of published research on UAS applications to environmental monitoring, in practice, very little has been operationalized by private or public entities to date. In July 2014, Argonne National Laboratory hosted a workshop dedicated to environmental monitoring UAS applications with attendance by representatives from 11 federal agencies as well as academics. The workshop reviewed the UAS state-of-the-art within the federal arena and barriers to broader UAS use. While a number of agencies, the including National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, the United States Geological Survey, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Bureau of Land Management have conducted proof-of-concept UAS demonstrations, typically using surplus Department of Defense equipment, the promise of UAS systems at the moment remains untapped for a variety of reasons. The consensus was, however, that UAS systems will play an increasingly important role in cost-effectively supporting timely natural-resource and land-management monitoring needs.
Environmental Practice 17: 170–177 (2015)