Remote Sensing & GIS

High Resolution Remote Sensing technology captures 13,000 acres in the U.S. Virgin Islands

3D contour line visualization
Contours generated from the Digital Terrain Maps created by Precision Ecology in St. Croix visualized in 3D.

A Need for Remote Sensing in the Caribbean

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a group of Caribbean islands and islets approximately 120 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. St. Croix makes up a majority of the island system spanning 84 square miles. With a rugged terrain workers have to be cautious about narrow roads, steep cliffs, and dense vegetation.

In September of 2017 The U.S. Virgin Islands were battered by two category 5 hurricanes back to back. Irma, the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured, brought 185 mph+ winds that wreaked havoc and devastation on the islands. Following up twelve days later Maria damaged or destroyed over 70% of the buildings on St. Croix including schools and the island’s only hospital. The remaining power grid and communications networks in the USVI were knocked out.

To this day along the island of St. Croix, repairs to restore the infrastructure can be seen taking place. With Javier Bidot & Associates as one of the lead surveyor and engineering firm to address these issues. Precision Ecology, a remote sensing data solutions start-up from Miami, Florida focused on environment management and sustainable development was brought in by Bidot & Associates as a consultant to collect the aerial data for areas of residential neighborhoods, metropolitan centers, and highways.

High resolution point cloud data.
High resolution point cloud data set generated by Precision Ecology.

Maintaining Data Quality While Reducing Project Time

Drones are increasingly being utilized due to their ease of data capture, risk mitigation from exposing workers to dangerous conditions, and increased image data quality compared to satellites. High-resolution images can be used to create accurate 3D maps and detailed 3D models of areas to study the surface. Moreover, drone images, unlike those satellites, are not hindered by weather conditions such as cloud cover.

Point cloud processing
Flight captures and key point processing visualization in Pix4D.

Precision Ecology has a range of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that include quad-copters and fixed wing vertical take off and landing (VTOL) systems. Tasked with mapping over 13,000 acres in varying terrain and constant high speed winds of over 20 mph, the Precision Ecology flight team fielded our fixed wing VTOL UAS the Wingtra One Gen II. Embedded with Real-time kinematic positioning (RTK) our equipment tracks the elevations of the ridgeline to maintain a consistent ground sampling distance (GSD)

Large scale overview of the area surveyed by the Precision Ecology team in St. Croix.

Ground sampling distance is the measurement of resolution per pixel. GSD is an important calculation to ensure the quality of captured data. Precision Ecology was able to capture an average GSD of 1.4 cm/px. The quality of data is on the same level that is achieved with quad-copters though the Wingtra system is able to complete flights in 4x the speed, thus decreasing the time in the field by operators to capture the data. The superior speed of the Wingtra and its ability to fly in high winds allowed the field operations team to map over 13,000 acres in 5 days.

Using GIS Data for Predictive Storm Modeling

Seasonal tropical cyclone activity increases during summer months. There are large numbers of customers that have services interrupted, property damaged, followed by insurance claims and expensive repairs. The ability to predict damage before the event and optimize response can significantly cut costs. Data can be utilized to create predictive damage models, map pre and post disaster areas, and provide analysis to engineers on how to build more weather resistant roads and buildings. All of these amazing improvements can be achieved easier and cheaper by utilizing the cutting edge technology provided by Precision Ecology.

Digital surface map (DSM)
Digital surface map (DSM) showing elevation data with a gradient filter.

Research is being attempted today to improve community and emergency responses to each stage of a hurricane disaster. Pre and Post disaster modeling is done using aerial imagery and imputing them into computer visualization software along with open source street data to determine information such as inland land flooding, storm surges, environmental damage assessment and data visualization of different outputs. An ensemble of mapping tools that incorporate data on water, roads, buildings, and vegetation is used to determine likely impacts and determine damage from post-disaster imagery as well.

Precision Ecology is capable of delivering the highest quality data at the lowest cost for land managers, conservationists, surveyors, engineers, scientists, and developers through the utilization of cutting edge autonomous aircraft, sensing and computing technology. Our knowledge of geoinformation systems, field expertise, and commitment to environmental sustainability have positioned us at the forefront of environmental data acquisition and processing in the southeastern United States, and Caribbean Islands. Find out more information at or email or

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