Drones for Conservation Research

Online Course will be available March 1-31, 2018

Rett Newton, Program Manager (courtesy of MaRRS, Duke University)

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS, also known as drones) are game-changing tools used for on-demand aerial surveys and mapping. For a land trust, UAS can offer significant benefits in survey efficiency, economy, frequency, and quality, but knowing when and how to utilize the technology can be challenging. There are many types of aircraft, support equipment, and software available, making informed adoption of these tools essential.

The Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab is offering a new, web-based course to help land trusts determine if and how UAS can be applied to their holdings. Our research group is a leader in the use of UAS for conservation and management, with over 1300 hours of flight time from surveys conducted across a variety of tropical, temperate and polar environments.

Registration link is coming soon!  Tuition:  $250   

Contact us at execed@nicholas.duke.edu for pre-registration 


Photo courtesy of MaRRS, Duke University

This course is broadly intended for environmental professionals including land trusts, consultants, conservation NGOs, and government agencies involved in easement monitoring will find this course useful. Stewardship managers, GIS analysts or other personnel interested in improving survey quality or efficiency can benefit. Academic research and technical staff are also appropriate.

Potential application to environmental research fields including:  animal management/conservation, coastal management/river & flood assessment, ecology, forestry, terrain monitoring, expeditions and adventure guiding, geomorphology and resiliency projects.

Participants will have an opportunity to learn why and how to utilize drone technology for conservation research projects.  For more information, please contact the NS Exec Ed program.

Online Program Description

This online course consists of four weekly sessions offered from March 1-31, 2018. Each session includes 2 to 3 short video learning modules (asynchronous format) and a weekly 1-hour in-person, interactive (synchronous) discussion.

Photo by Lauren Arona, Courtesy of MaRRS, Duke University

The Course Will:

  • Describe UAS contributions to baseline documentation, surveys, monitoring, landowner relations, and volunteer programs.
  • Introduce UAS workflows, including aircraft preparation, flight planning, and data processing.
  • Showcase different types of UAS data products, their applications, and how to analyze them.
  • Evaluate different types of small UAS, sensors, and support software to determine which combinations meet land trusts’ budget and goals.
  • Investigate which types of holdings can benefit from UAS, and which are better left to “boots on the ground” or other remote sensing methods.
  • Discuss the regulations and restrictions on UAS use, and what they mean for land trust monitoring.
    Create a network of environmental professionals working on similar projects across the globe.

Lead Instructor: Alex Seymour, Research Associate, Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab

Faculty Instructor: David Johnston, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation Ecology


General Course Policies

We accept credit cards and checks payable to Duke University Conference Services (mail to NSEE: UAV2017, 036 Bryan Center, Box 90847, Durham, NC 27708-0841).

Payment is due upon receipt of invoice or no less than 15 days before the start of the course. If special arrangements must be made for payment due to agency requirements, you must contact our office no less than 15 days prior to the start of the course at execed@nicholas.duke.edu to complete and submit a payment due notice form.

Failure to make payment arrangements 15 days prior to the start of the course may result in the forfeit of your seat and you will be held responsible for the full tuition of the course. Future registrations will not be accepted from individuals with unpaid invoices.

Course certificates will not be provided until payment is received.

Cancellation & Transfer Policy
All speakers and companies listed have confirmed their participation. If for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances a speaker cannot attend, instructional time will be filled with comparable instructors. If a course is canceled due to insufficient registrations, tuition will be refunded. Duke cannot be held responsible for travel costs or arrangements made by participants.

Cancellation of registration requires 15 days written notice prior to course start date in order to receive a refund (please submit notification to execed@nicholas.duke.edu). Individuals who do not attend and fail to send written notice prior to the deadline will be charged the full tuition. You may send a substitute to attend the course in your place. However, a $100.00 administrative fee will be assessed for this change, regardless of when written notice is submitted.  Any cancellation or substitute request must be received in writing.

  • 15 or more days prior to the course start date – Full tuition refund, minus a $100 administrative fee.
  • Less than 15 days prior to the course start date – Full tuition is assessed and a refund is forfeited.
  • Substitute within your organization can attend in your place for an additional $100.00 administrative fee.

In order to receive a refund, you must cancel your registration (in writing to execed@nicholas.duke.edu) by 5:00 pm on the refund deadline date for the course.