The drone ensures the future: geo-remote detection in the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide


Potsdam Research Center

Audio: antenna Brandenburg | 28.07.2020 | Jorn Pissowotzki | Image: Potsdam Research Center

Remote detection in the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide

With drones and satellites for the future of the heath

The Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide is popular with hikers, and in autumn you can see all the colors. In order to keep the heath beautiful, the Potsdam Geo Research Center uses drones and satellites that deliver amazing pictures. By Jorn Pissowotzki
Everything looks so idyllic from the observation tower on the Sielmannhugel in the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide (Ostprignitz-Ruppin). There are many birch trees, as well as pines and a lot of heather, over which countless small butterflies flutter. A few hikers are on the fixed paths. The calm is not really disturbed by the Ecostrat drone.

Small-scale insights

The planning office Ecostrat is one of the project partners of the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam when exploring the heath. The employees collect terrestrial data, explains Anne Schindhelm. You need a good eye, a ruler and a measuring stick. To clarify how big the plant is, how wide it is and how the flower is made. And, as Anne Schindhelm says, they fly the area with drones. She controls them that day.

The Potsdam geoecologist Carsten Neumann can discover a lot with the help of the high-resolution drone images in the centimeter range: “We can see individual leaflets, individual branches even these small bushes. Whatever we do, we try to assess the reproductive capacity: How much does the heather bloom? And how is the flower distribution? How much food is available during flowering, especially for endangered species such as wild bees, for pollinators who need this nectar supply. ”

Aerial view of the Kyritz-Ruppiner-Heide (source: Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam)
The researchers analyze a total of 4,000 hectares | Image: Potsdam Research Center

Satellites shed light on changes in the ecosystem

The geoecologist Carsten Neumann specializes in geographic remote sensing. So what everything is visible through drones and satellites. Anyone who is already fascinated by what the drone can do will be even more surprised to hear what the satellite can do, says Carsten Neumann: “On the one hand we see the different plant species. We can differentiate exactly where each species grows. We can partially say: A certain type of grass grows here. Here a young one, here an old heather grows “. In addition, the researchers can see how vital or how damaged the plants are, especially now in the past two years, when there was severe drought stress in these areas due to the lack of rainfall.

Gain knowledge for care

As part of their project, the researchers are analyzing the southern part of the former military training area in the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide. That is 4,000 hectares. The area is maintained by the Heinz Sielmann Foundation. In her work she tries to maintain open landscapes like this one here at Wittstock. Jorg Furstenow from the foundation says that he hopes for information for landscape maintenance through the geo-research project.

To do this, it must first be determined how much biomass there is on the area. Species are recorded and observed as they develop. So they can be addressed to promote the species. Potsdam researcher Carsten Neumann says their diversity should be preserved.

Anne Schildhelm and Vanessa Ochlast from Ecostrat and Carsten Neumann from the Geo Research Center observe the drone flight (Image: rbb / Joern Pissowotzki)
Anne Schildhelm and Vanessa Ochlast from Ecostrat and Carsten Neumann from the Geo Research Center observe the drone flight | Image: rbb / Joern Pissowotzki

International science community eager for knowledge

The remote region in northwest Brandenburg has attracted international attention through the project. The community, which mostly speaks English, is eager for results on this open land ecosystem – alongside the forest, this is an important habitat. The Kyritz-Ruppiner findings flow into machine learning systems that can also be reused in other areas. The Potsdam Geo Research Center is doing pioneering work with its mapping work. Carsten Neumann says that the software can be used for wetlands, even rainforests.

A maintenance machine will be used in the future

The project in the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide will continue for two more years. Researchers will continue to learn how the ecosystem could develop. And how it grows if suitable care measures are applied. To this end, they develop recommendations as to what best suits the heath. In the future, a kind of robot, a maintenance machine, will be used on site. It is planned that he will carry out his work remotely and automatically maintain the heath. So Carsten Neumann looks ahead. The machine can cut down trees, mow the heather, the clippings are made available to companies for further processing.

Rainer Entrup from Bundesforst is pleased with the results of the Potsdam. He is responsible for the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide. He reports that the tourism season is going well. In the open landscape, the distances can also be kept well, he says with a wink. Rainer Entrup expects even more tourists when the heather blooms in August. He is currently enjoying the views over the heather over which the many heather bluelings, the little butterflies, flutter. The work of the Potsdamer ensures that the idyll has a chance for the future.

Broadcast: Antenne Brandenburg, July 28, 2020, 2:10 p.m.

Contribution by Jorn Pissowotzki

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