Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Novel Ecological Uses for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-UAVs

Ignition controlled burn test at Homestead National Monument of America grounds, Beatrice, NE


January 2014 - July 2019


We have established a team of ecologists, computer scientists, and engineers who have been exploring novel applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology to ecological challenges. A primary application is the use of UAVs to remotely ignite controlled burns to help with management of grasslands, including the reduction of woody invasive species such as eastern red cedar. This particular line of work has led to the development of a prototype UAV. Prototypes have been utilized to initiate internal ignitions in a large prescribed fire in the Loess Canyons of Nebraska, and a very public burn at the National Park Services Homestead National Monument of America. Both applications were successful, and funding has been secured to continue to develop this technology.

Additional uses include the development of a module to remotely sample invasive zebra mussel veligers (larvae). This application was successfully deployed for the first time at Offutt Lake, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In this case, as with prescribed fire, the development of UAV technology is enabling both more efficient and safe sampling (or burning), where safety is paramount and logistical constraints limit effort.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Beachly, E., J. Higgins, C. Laney, S. Elbaum, C. Detweiler, C. Allen, and D. Twidwell. 2017. A micro-UAS to Amplify Fire Ignition Capabilities and Safety. International Symposium on Experimental Robotics.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4246



  • Craig AllenCo-Principal Investigator

Funding Agencies

  • NSF


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey