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Unpolarizing the Natural and the Artificial: Using AI to Augment Land Management Efforts

04 April 2024

Matrix is leading the charge in the industry integrating artificial intelligence (AI) integration, spearheading innovative projects with drone technology and machine learning for large-scale land management! As a 2023 Jefferson County Open Space research grant recipient, Matrix is thrilled to work with the Jefferson County Natural Resources Team this year to study the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, to locate invasive weed species. 

This study effort includes exploring several remote sensing methods such as fine-resolution multispectral, aerial, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from drone-mounted sensors. The goal is to identify community data of myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) locations, which is a Colorado List A species designated for eradication. To calibrate the model, Matrix staff have defined a new procedure using a modified quadrat surveying methodology to inform high-integrity field data collection efforts. Extensive plant identification knowledge was used to determine the appropriate seasonal window to collect the field data used to train the model based on vegetation growth and flowering conditions relative to the target species and site-specific conditions. 

In 2023, drones were flown over two separate project areas located within Windy Saddle Park and Apex Park, and the flights will continue this year at Clear Creek Canyon Park. Utilizing the data collected from these locations and an extensive geospatial analysis toolkit, the model is being trained so that this process can be iterated to future and larger landscapes across Jefferson County. 

Drone technology has significantly improved in recent years and provides views not easily observable from on-the-ground surveys and is less costly than airplane or helicopter flight, and is capable of streamlining operations and staff resources more efficiently for targeted treatment applications. The identification of invasive species using drone-based remote sensing is a relatively novel field of research, and Matrix is leading the way in developing the code to build a cost-effective tool to assist in the identification of treatment areas.