‘From the Air’ Stamps Released
The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is delighted to announce the release of a new stamp set which gives a new perspective on the Territory…from the air.
In recent years small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have become increasingly popular. UAVs come in a range of sizes but the devices used on South Georgia are typically less than 7 kg and powered by battery. The advanced computer systems and sensors mean that they can be programmed to fly detailed flight paths, keep steady in turbulent winds and even return to their home station when batteries run low. These safety features are vital to make sure that the South Georgia environment and wildlife is not damaged during flights.
In South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands use of UAVs is restricted to projects authorised by the Government. However, they offer a different view on the world and have huge potential to collect valuable data in less time and cause less intrusion than multiple people in the field so in recent years a number of projects have been supported to use them.
As many of South Georgia’s coastal areas are crowded with wildlife, particularly during the breeding season, an early application was to use UAVs to conduct surveys. By flying at a safe height above the beaches and bays, operators were able to get a unique bird’s eye view. This meant it was possible to accurately count the number of animals without having to cause disturbance by walking on the beach or approaching in a boat. Being able to quickly assess the number of animals in an area has meant it is possible to closely track how wildlife changes through the seasons. In the future the information we get from this data will form part of our visitor management plans.
Closely linked to surveys of wildlife are surveys of the environment that they inhabit. Programming UAVs to fly in a grid pattern over the coastline has meant it is possible to create detailed maps not just of land and sea but also the amount and type of vegetation cover. This information can help track how species are recovering after the removal of invasive species and how ground in front of glaciers is colonised after the ice retreats. Whilst some ground-truthing of data in these newly exposed and pristine pieces of land is still required, UAV methodology largely removes the need for physical transects to be completed.
As well as getting a new perspective on current activities on South Georgia, UAVs can be used to get an insight to the past. The rich cultural heritage of the island from early sealing expeditions through to the whaling industry of the 1900’s has left its mark. Although some artefacts are visible from the ground, by taking to the sky it is possible to see a new level of detail and reveal structures not seen for hundreds of years. As nature reclaims these spaces this record is all the more important.
Of course, the incredible footage of the South Georgia landscape and its wildlife is too good not to share and so another key use of UAVs has been for outreach and media projects. Use of UAVs allows filmmakers to show wildlife like we have never seen it before. As animals are unaware of the UAVs flying many meters above them they behave naturally whilst we, as custodians of this environment gain insight to their world.
This series of stamps celebrates some of the unique perspectives gained through these projects.