FLAAR Mesoamerica

Using good quality drone is essential for botanical and ecological field projects

If your project has insufficient funds you will either have no drone service or a cheap low-megapixel drone. These cheap drones have lenses that produce distorted images because they are wide-angle lenses for hikers and bikers on weekend or family vacation. These drones are useless for botanical and ecological field work. So avoid all GoPro drones and every GoPro camera (unless you are a hobbyist and want snapshots to show your family).

There are several brands of drones, but when I asked around (asked other botanists, ecologists, agriculturalists, etc) 100% suggested I get the DJI Mavic Air 2. After I did research, I found out it had many advantages over the DJI Mavic 2 pro.

Now the DJI Mavic 3 has been announced (in November 2021). We will get the top model of this series (since it can “fly through areas with lots of trees”). Since much of our field work is in the rain forests of Guatemala, there are trees that we wish to photograph “from top to bottom” with a drone. Plus for areas with few trees, such as a marsh or savanna, we need a drone to photograph the plants from above to document how the species in one area are different from the plants just 50 or 100 meters away.

But if you wish to record and document individual plants in a rain forest, savanna, marsh or other ecosystem, the only drone camera that is of top resolution is the Phase One iXM (UAV) camera with the DJI M600 drone to fly it. Obviously we are not sitting on this sum of money (since our project required funding for two 4-wheel drive double-cabin pickup trucks with special mud-tires to get us into the remote rain forest areas where we are accomplishing field work).

We have published several FLAAR reports showing the aerial photos from the DJI Mavic Air 2. The DJI Mavic 3 will arrive in a month (so then we can show how its photos are slightly better than the earlier model).

I would also mention that having an experienced professional drone pilot is essential. Haniel Lopez has been flying our drones for two years now (and he had experience long before he joined our team). The FLAAR drone is registered and licensed and we fly only in areas where we have a permit or project.

As soon as a Phase One iXM camera with its special lenses is available to our non-profit research, evaluation, and publication projects, we can show 100-megapixel quality high-resolution photos of rain forest areas never before visited or studied by any professor or researcher. Our project of cooperation and coordination with CONAP, the Guatemalan agency for forest and ecosystem documentation and conservation, is for five years. This project covers over 21,602 square kilometers which is 8,340 square miles (more than 5 million acres of the Maya Lowlands of north area of Guatemala (actually 5,337,970 acres)). So, a lot of trees covered with bromeliads and orchids to photograph, plus giant ferns that are taller than I am and of course dozens of species of Neotropical palms. The Phase One iXM camera is advertised primarily for engineers to inspect bridges, highways, electrical power lines and other constructions. And for real estate projects, urban development, etc. Our goal is to show the world that botanists, ecologists, zoologists, can produce more accurate, more professional photos with this Phase One+DJI system. The rain forests (and the swamps, marshes, savannas, logwood bajos, and palm ecosystems) need conservation and protection. It is easier to do projects in wildlife and forest conservation if you can show what deserves to be protected.

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