Current Research

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD)

SDAV is currently monitoring the spread of Ceratocystis fimbriata, also known as Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a newly identified strain of fungus that is killing native ʻŌhiʻa trees (Metrosideros polymorpha). We are collecting repeat high-resolution videos/imagery from sUAS platforms to assess progression rates and spatial patterns of tree mortality associated with ROD. Future work with hyperspectral remote sensing may allow us to identify infected trees before symptoms become visible. More information on ROD
Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Labs

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo


We are researching the effectiveness of using sUAS platforms in the fight against non-native weeds, including miconia (Miconia calvescens). Miconia is an invasive noxious weed found throughout the main Hawaiian Islands that shades out native plant species and quickly takes over a forest to create an invasive monotypic forest.

Maunakea Summit Erosion

Maunakea is a dormant shield volcano that reaches 4,205 meters on the island of Hawaiʻi that is undergoing both natural and anthropogenic erosion. SDAV created a baseline high-resolution topographic dataset of the summit area and is using repeat terrestrial LiDAR and sUAS imagery to quantify and monitor erosion rates to better aid management practices.

Shoreline Change

Hawaiʻi Island’s coastal resources are vulnerable to the combined impacts of erosion, subsidence, and sea level rise. We are using remote sensing techniques to quantify historic and contemporary shoreline change rates along the Hilo and Kona coastlines. Results from this research will be used to support the County of Hawaiʻi’s efforts to produce a scientifically relevant shoreline setback policy.
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Click on the picture to view Maunakea video!

Biological Soil Crusts and Erosion

Biological soil crusts, also known as biocrusts, are complex assemblages of photosynthetic microorganisms that inhabit the top layers of soil. These communities play important roles in ecosystem functioning and soil stability, especially in arid climates. We are exploring classification methods to map biocrusts with high-resolution sUAS imagery in the Kawaihae watershed on Hawaii Island. Our goal is to create highly-detailed spatial data that could be used by conservation organizations working in this watershed and to contribute to the awareness of biocrusts as soil stabilizing agents.
Click on the picture to view ROD video!

Mapping Puna Ahupuaʻa

Ahupuaʻa are traditional Hawai‘i land divisions that typically trend mauka-makai (from the uplands into the sea) and are a foundational element of Hawaiʻi geography, culture and society. University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Geography major Kaylyn Ells- Hoʻokano and Hawaiʻi Community College Geography instructor Drew Kapp, assisted by the SDAV lab, produced a map of ahupuaʻa in the moku (district) of Puna as a first step of the Puna Ahupuaʻa Awareness Project, an initiative to heighten the consciousness of Puna residents of the roughly sixty ahupuaʻa of which their moku is comprised. Click here for more info. This map is for the community! Click on image for full-size JPEG or click here for PDF version

2018 Volcanic Eruption

SDAV partnered with Hawaii County Civil defense, USGS and other agencies to monitor and track the eruption from Kilauea volcano that began on May 3rd and ended in August 2018. Using sUAS paltforms with cameras that capture imagery in the visible and infrared (thermal) wavelengths, SDAV monitored flows day and night to providfe accurate updates for emergency planners. Click here for PDF map of visible flight boundaries Click here for PDF map of thermal flight boundaries