VLA & UAV for Geographic Proximal Remote Sensing Missions: Safety for Planning of the Territory under Budget Constraints
Bernabeo, R. Alberto
University of Bologna, ITALY

Very light aircraft (VLA) and UAV platforms - with dedicated sensors - should be considered a valuable source of data for mapping, 3D modeling, inspection and surveillance issues. In this sense they are a fundamental support to the planning, running and control of the territory, for teaching geography, history, natural science and all those subjects that require a continuous cyclical process of observation, evaluation and interpretation leading to the implementation of a targeted management plan (followed by further observation and refinement of the management plan, if required). The rationale behind this process is that, through the use of proximal remote sensing information, any given decision related to anthropic landscape and nature integration has an increased likelihood of delivering the desired or expected outcome compared with a similar decision made in the absence of such information. However, it is important to realise that the use of proximal remote sensing information alone also provide an opportunity to improve knowledge and management decision-making for the safeguard of the environment, for the conservation of archeological, historical, artistic and architectural sites, allowing an exact delimitation of the site in the territory. Since the early days of multispectral remote sensing, the major advances include completely new types of detectors: as software and imaging systems continue to improve, remote sensing is focused on developing methods to quantify the data extracted from imagery. A number of service providers offer various technologies and data acquisition, management, processing and viewing packages using geographical information systems (GIS). In this context I would like to introduce the ongoing research project of utilizing a very light aircraft for proximal remote sensing. FASTER (Fig. n 1 - Fully Automated SysTem for Environmental monitoRing: the system comprises a graphic interface named ‘tunnel-in-the-sky’ which helps the pilot in following the planned flight trajectory ) is a cooperation between the two laboratories of Mechanics of Flight and the one of Microsatellites of the University of Bologna - for proximal remote sensing using very light aeroplanes equipped with a real time acquisition system which can elaborate and archive data such as georeferencing and orthorectification. Being mobile, rapid, economical and convenient, the system may become the high-tech equipment for rapid data access and data processing in low-altitude digital remote sensing. Since FASTER payload is a non-redundant project, close attention to safety and risks aspects and their management related to budget constraints is a major issue. At the outset, when a programme is initiated, risks may be covered through the allocation of a funding reserve as part of the financial envelope provided. However, in today’s economic climate, the trend is to reduce such reserves to the absolute minimum at which a programme is still considered feasible. FASTER system has already provided a very important means to conduct small-scope survey of land resources through proximal remote sensing using digital cameras and guarantees surveying service in new countryside and townships. Remote sensing using light aircraft is generally the 'entry point' for new adopters due to the potential high rate of return on investment; such imagery is available for a relatively small cost in Euro per hectare. As a result, more and more work is done to directly measure environmental factors and (for example) help to increase agricultural yields. In addition to the collection and correction of remote sensing images and the display and application of the data, a broad range of scientific disciplines are benefiting from these improvements. The layout of the research project, involving various operative units allows both to investigate different and complementary aspects of the territorial transformations in hand and to verify and compare methodologies and approaches employed in contexts which are different in their geographic collocation and in their morphologic- structural and socio-economic connotation. The multi-temporal analysis of main systems, being carried out through all of the possible informative sources, enables to have a synoptic vision of large parts of the investigated territory. These systems are the following ones: paesistic and urban-territorial, structural and infrastructural, hydrographical, natural and soil real use, agronomic, productive, agricultural product transformation, rural territory fruition, and economic. The aim of this paper is also to present with a "geographic eye" available technologies that can assist in the prevention of disasters and in the mitigation of their impacts with reference to the main role of the European Community Mechanism for Civil Protection which is intended to facilitate co-operation in civil protection assistance interventions in the event of major emergencies (which may require urgent response actions). This applies also to situations where there may be an imminent threat of such major emergencies. For civil protection purposes, risk is the possibility that a natural or man-made phenomenon may cause damage to the population, inhabited and production areas and infrastructures in a given area in a certain period of time. Proximal remote sensing devices may therefore be considered as a tool that enhances community co-operation in civil protection matters as it was established by the European Council Decision of 23 October 2001 (a recast of this Council Decision was adopted on 8 November 2007). Finally, proximal remote sensing cartography constitutes a catalogue of all available information concerning the territory and the environment. The knowledge of terrestrial details up to centimeters with the use of photo cameras will therefore generate georeferenced images which may be used as cartographic basis. In conclusion, nowadays I deem imperative the use of very light aeroplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles for proximal remote sensing with new devices, sensors, technologies which may help in proactive measures for civil aerial monitoring, disaster surveillance, territorial data implementation and landscape management.