The new Unmanned Aircraft Systems program will keep the survey up to date about myriad environmental conditions and natural resources, said Barbara Ryan, the survey's associate director for geography.
The program will allow scientists "to look longer, closer, and more frequently at some of the most remote areas of the Earth, places that were previously too dangerous or too expensive to monitor in detail," she said.
Unmanned aircraft systems cost less than pilot-operated aircraft and will provide clearer and closer images than satellite photos, she said in a release Tuesday.
From a home base at the center's facility in Lakewood, Colo., the program will be used to manage federal lands, investigate climate change, conduct environmental risk assessments and respond to disasters.
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