Drones and smartphones are turning California residents into citizen scientists

citizen scientist climate change hexo  drone 0081
Rick Stella/Digital Trends
We’ve been crowd-sourcing the public for everything from news to the newest inventions, and now, the people are adopting a new de facto title — climate change scientists. Armed with little more than their smartphones and their selfie techniques, California residents are taking to their shorelines and providing experts with a firsthand look at the evolution of the coast as a result of El Niño. By documenting both the flooding and the erosion that occurs over time, everyday individuals can help researchers in their quest to better understand ocean-atmosphere interactions, and make good use of their drones and cell phones to boot.

That’s right, even unmanned flying devices can be used in this endeavor, finally giving tech enthusiasts a sanctioned use for their favorite airborne toys. The hope, scientists with the Nature Conservancy say, is to use these crowd-sourced and geo-tagged images to provide a more complete and real-time image of California’s coastal landscape, which in turn could be used to predict future changes.

Drones are actually particularly useful for this purpose because they can provide high-resolution and three-dimensional images, which may help scientists test their current models and theories about El Niño and other weather patterns. “We use these projected models and they don’t quite look right, but we’re lacking any empirical evidence,” Matt Merrifield, the Nature Conservancy’s chief technology officer, told the Associated Press. “This is essentially a way of ‘ground truthing’ those models.”

California residents have been tapped for participation because they have a considerable amount of skin in the game. Many of the state’s beaches are at risk of disappearing altogether, and a 2009 Pacific Institute study suggested that around 500,000 people, as well as $100 billion in schools, power plants, and roadways, are at risk of destruction if sea levels continue to rise. And while the public’s pictures cannot support predictions with 100-percent accuracy, they’ll certainly aid in furthering our understanding of natural phenomena.

Some drone owners are excited by this new, very practical application of their often taboo devices. “It’s a really exciting application. It’s not just something to take a selfie with,” said aerospace engineer and drone owner Trent Lukaczyk. So if you’re out in California and wondering what else to snap a photo of, consider the coast, and consider our collective future.


Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.

Photography News: Startup redesigns tripod heads ‘inside out’ for more flexibility

Well, this doesn't look like the ball heads that we've seen before. Instead of designing a tripod ball head with a small cutout, the Colorado Tripod Company created one with most of the ball exposed, allowing for more possible angles.

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.

Leica targets street photographers with a pricey camera bundle

Described by the camera company as "your perfect companion in the city," Leica's Street Kit comprises a Leica CL camera body, a 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) F2 lens, batteries, a handgrip, and a black leather carrying strap.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…