Technology-Driven Research Leaves Pygmy Rabbit Habitat Untouched

Monday, June 9 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – June 5, 2014 – Pygmy rabbits are benefitting from the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) used to conduct research on their southern Idaho habitat. While the rabbits’ homes are left undisturbed by the research, the technology is making a huge impact on the future of UAS use in Idaho.

“This is like the satellite imagery of 15 years ago,” said Janet Rachlow, professor in the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources. “People didn’t know what to do with it at first, and now it is a common source of data. Need for UAS data is growing.”

That need is being met by continued collaboration like the pygmy rabbit research, which is entering its second year on the rangelands in the Lehmi Valley. Robotic aircraft with nine-foot wing spans are used to take high-resolution digital images of the habitat to better understand how pygmy rabbits live. The project is part of a collaborative program conducted by researchers at UI, Boise State University, Washington State University and the University of Florida. 

The research team will be in Lemhi County for two weeks, with the key flight days being June 15-23. 

The UI research is also part of a larger collaboration to create a Center of Excellence for UAS in Idaho at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) site in Idaho Falls. The effort is led by the Idaho Department of Commerce in partnership with the state universities, Idaho National Laboratory, CAES and private industry. It would help create a framework for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace structure. 

“We want to represent all the research that is done for Idaho reasons — water, agriculture, wildlife, ranching, reservoirs and more,” said Steve Edgar, president and CEO of ADAVSO, an unmanned air systems consulting company working with the commerce department to establish the Center of Excellence. The center would be a one-stop-shop for all things UAS related, Certificates of Authorization, processing the required FAA documents needed to legally fly UAS, research coordination, security and more.

Many of the Center of Excellence stakeholders will be at the UI research site to experience how the technology plays into wildlife research.

The UI will be hosting the next meeting of the Idaho UAS Working Group on campus September 8-9. 

“We decided to move these meetings around the state to provide access for more people to attend and gain the opportunity to learn about Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” Edgar said. 


Jodi Walker
Marketing and Communications
College of Natural Resources
(208) 885-2717

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