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Grant Allows State To Purchase Drones To Track Natural Resources Across Maine

Maine Forest Service
Aerial view from Maine Forest Service drone, tracking a prescribed fire on state-owned lands in Masardis, Maine.

Maine's agriculture department has received a grant to purchase up to 20 drones to keep track of natural resources across the state.

Credit Maine Forest Service
Maine Forest Service
DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal, operating a Maine Forest Service drone with guidance by Regional Ranger Jeff Currier.

Patty Cormier, the director of the Maine Forest Service, says the new tools will help monitor changes in forest composition and water quality as climate change warms and alters the landscape.

“We're looking at larger rain events, which is affecting water bodies,” says Cormier. “It's affecting how roads are laid out, how culverts are put in. And this is just another tool to visualize that and see where we can improve. And educate folks to improve on how to protect the water."

Cormier says she expects the agency will continue to add drones in the future, which she says will be particularly useful for forest rangers to quickly spot signs of forest fires during storms.

“In the olden days, you're just waiting around until someone smells it, someone sees it,” Cormier says. “So these guys will be able to get on the first much quicker. Get the helicopter called, put it out.”

The agency says staff will follow strict FAA guidance on drone use and also has internal policies and training to ensure they don't interfere with local landowners.