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Drone gives Souris watershed group a unique view of land and sea

A watershed group in the Souris area is using a drone to give its members easier access to some of the places that they work.

The group received funding to purchase the drone last winter, and members have been using it since then to fly over rivers and streams in the watershed, and to help them plan future projects.

“I think it’s just brought our work into the 21st century really,” said Frances Braceland, co-watershed co-ordinator for Souris and Area Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

“It means that we’re not relying on old maps from 2010 when we’re trying to assess sites.”

Braceland said the drone can also speed up the process of gathering information around the watershed.

“We don’t have to necessarily visit every single square inch of where we might want to do some work,” Braceland said.

“We can just fly the drone overhead and get really crystal clear images that help inform any decisions we want to make, or any projects we might want to do in the future.”

Scouting from the sky

Project manager Luke Chaisson raised the idea of getting a drone, purchasing one himself to take some photos, to help make the case for what the drone could do.

He’s also one of the drone pilots.

Chaisson said, at the Basin Head Marine Protected Area, they’ve been using the drone to monitor the Irish moss, as well as around other parts of the watershed.

“Scouting out possible tree planting sites, scouting out beaver habitat and using it in our stream management, so it’s really just become a great tool for us all around,” Chaisson said.

“It saved us a long time of snowshoeing in, to look at a creek. So it’s been a time saver, to say the least.”

The group’s agri-environmental supervisor, Jacob MacKinnon, uses the drone for his work on the Living Lab-Atlantic project.

“We get a lot of overhead photos,” MacKinnon said.

“Rather than hiking all the way around the potato field, you can stand on the edge of the field and let the drone do the work. It’s been very helpful that way.”

Unique views

MacKinnon said the drone has also provided some great views of wildlife in the area.

“We’ve already had it out to check a couple of sites, like fish ladders. Sometimes you can’t get quite as close as you would like,” MacKinnon said.

“Occasionally, we will go out and we’ll get a fox going through a field or something. So it’s nice just to get a rough idea of what’s around. You can get a bit closer with the drone than you can yourself.”

The Souris group has also had a lot of positive comments on social media about the photos that they are taking with the drone, including a very popular one this winter.

“I took a photo of East Point. You could see the ice on the south side versus the north side,” Chaisson said.

“People asked me if I was in a helicopter, if I climbed a crane, or what was going on. It’s just a great tool and people seem to love it.”

Chaisson has been hearing from other watershed groups on P.E.I. interested in the way they are using the drone.

“More and more accessible. The prices of them are going down, and the training is becoming more and more available,” Chaisson said.

“The more people use them, the more people see the upside of them. So I think that it’s just the beginning.”