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Remote Sensing & GIS

Federal Highway Mapping in El Yunque, The United States’ Only Rainforest

Updated: Jan 9

The island of Puerto Rico is a United States territory located in the Caribbean approximately 1,600 kilometers from Miami. The geography of the small island varies from white sand beaches to mountainous tropical rainforest with peaks reaching 1,000 AMSL.


A United States registered National park, El Yunque National Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest in North America. A series of roads run through the park to allow guests to travel the 29,000 acre park. Puerto Rico’s location in the Caribbean makes it susceptible to yearly hurricanes. These violent storms frequently change the landscape by causing landslides and other geological shifts. For the winding roads located in El Yunque National Rainforest’s park this meant major shifts along points of the roads making parts of the park inaccessible for managers and patrons alike.


In September of 2021, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration awarded a contract to Novel Construction in Puerto Rico to address the road deterioration resulting from landslides on PR FS Route- 27 caused by Hurricane Maria. Precision Ecology, a remote sensing data solutions start-up from Miami, Florida focused on environment management and sustainable development was subcontracted for pre-construction planning and conditions assessment. The US Forest Service was also involved in this project, requesting Precision Ecology’s data to perform ecological assessments of endangered species in the area.


Pictured above: Highway FS-27 Orthomosaic preview


Using the Wingtra One Gen II along with the Sony RX1R II Precision Ecology flew over 16 KM and a total of 65 acres in just 17 minutes. In just three days the Precision Ecology team mapped and recorded data from areas with dense vegetation for the purpose of improved pre-construction planning and to detect any endangered wildlife within the work areas. Precision Ecology was able to efficiently conduct field work and record data of the land slides on FS-27 in conjunction with the project’s stakeholders. Precision Ecology was also able to identify additional landslides and areas where landslides were forming and likely to cause geological change.


“With access to more information, data, and detailed reports of the site conditions the contractor is able to better coordinate his team and facilitate optimal workflow while minimizing the area being disturbed,” said Precision Ecology’s contact at the FAA, Mr. First and Last Name. For the stakeholders involved including the US Forest Service team responsible for ensuring this work was done in an environmentally conscious manner, the combination of information provided and minimal intrusion involved made this work feasible at last, almost three years after the storm that caused the damage. The WingtraOne was specifically designed to cause as little disturbance to and be as non-threatening to hawks and endangered birds as possible.


Pictured above: FS-27 Orthomosaic overlayed onto FHA Plans


Dedicating particular attention to pre-construction matters allows for an improved quality of work to be completed, as well as a reduction of certain unforeseen costs that may arise from management inefficiencies. Even further, providing this information for the size and detail required for this project in the environment necessary would not have been possible without the utilization of the WingtraOne as the primary UAS system deployed.


Precision Ecology is proud to make the advanced capabilities of the WingtraOne Generation II available to clients around the Southeast United States and the Caribbean. This project was made possible by the excellent work of the US Federal Highway Association, the US Federal Aviation Association, the US Forest Service and Novel Construction. For additional information on remote sensing for environmental management and sustainable development data solutions please feel free to get in touch at precisioneco.com or reach out to the team at science@precisionecology.com or benjamin@precisionecology.com.



By Alexander Leiva, Head of Data Acquisition

Precision Ecology LLC


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