Workshop on ‘Glacier Monitoring in the Himalayas using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (To be Followed by a Demonstration of the UAV in the Field)



Commercial UAVs are now used for professional mapping and survey in many regions, and with many applications.  Autopilot software now allows the user to pre-plan flight routes using Google Earth, return the UAV to a specified landing location with the click of a button, and removes risks associated with manually controlled units. While the main objective of this workshop is to demonstrate the application of UAVs in glacier monitoring research, the number of applications for UAVs is virtually unlimited.  

Glaciers are important indicators of climate change, and are valuable water resources in high mountain catchments. Changes in glaciers can be measured through ground-based field studies, though these are limited to point observations on accessible glaciers. Satellite imagery can also be used to map changes in glacier area at moderate resolution (e.g., 30 m), and high-resolution stereo imagery obtained from commercial satellites can be used to estimate glacier volume change on decadal time scales.   

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has the potential to completely change the way glaciers are monitored, and can provide enormous scientific insights into how (and why) they are changing.  As opposed to ground-based measurements, UAVs can be used to generate maps of glacier change at approximately 5 cm resolution.  Compared to moderate resolution glacier change detection methods, the high spatial resolution and accuracy of UAVs allows annual mapping of changes in glacier surface height. 

This workshop aims to explore the uses of UAVs in glacier research and other possible applications related to (but not limited to) natural hazards and risks (landslide mapping, GLOF risk assessments), urban planning, road construction, animal tracking, and forestry monitoring.  The goal is to demonstrate the utility of the UAV, and strengthen dialogue and ease the permitting process for legitimate research purposes.  

  • Topics to be covered during the workshop include:
  • Glacier remote sensing and the role of UAVs
  • Methods and initial results of the UAV studies in Langtang
  • Future applications of UAV (landslip mapping, GLOF hazard, illegal logging/mining/extraction activities) 
  • Discussion of permit facilitation/requirement
  • Hands-on demonstration of the UAV equipment
  • UAV demonstration in the field