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AFIMSC's first innovation partnership enlists drones to protect warblers

The first innovation partnership for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC) will use drones and machine learning to improve environmental data collection, starting with efforts to help protect the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

The project, which scored a $3 million Small Business Innovation Research award from the Air Force in March, is powered by AFIMSC's partnerships with the Air Force Innovation Hub Network (AFWERX) and Aerial Applications, a small business headquartered in Philadelphia that provides drone services and mapping software.

“We’ve achieved tremendous success very quickly, which could not have been possible without teammates who work well together,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. The innovation office stood up in November 2018, and the drone project was one of the first innovation initiatives the office pursued.

AFIMSC and Aerial Applications began field testing the project last fall, flying an unmanned aerial system equipped with light detection and ranging, multi-spectral sensors and machine-learning algorithms to map, survey and inventory habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler at Camp Bullis, Texas, not far from Aerial Applications' Austin location. The species, also known as the gold finch of Texas, breeds in Central Texas, from Palo Pinto County southwestward along the eastern and southern edge of the Edwards Plateau to Kinney County. It is the only bird species with a breeding range confined to Texas.

Additional field tests at Camp Bullis are planned for late March. The initial project will expand to include other species and will be applied to more than 20 different uses in at least 12 locations, according to Vandeveer. The technology could eventually be applied to installation and mission support projects beyond environmental management.

Read more: https://www.afimsc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2110518/afimsc-in...

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