New project aims to use drones to revitalise Teesdale’s damaged peatland

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A NEW project is using the latest drone technology to help tackle Teesdale’s damaged peatland using aerial photographs.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was recently launched over Lunedale to take high resolution and near infrared images of severely damaged peat to better understand what work needs to be done and where.

The Peatland Programme is being undertaken by The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership in collaboration with Northumbrian Water Ltd and Newcastle University


The drone will take photographs with a resolution of up to 10cm – which means an object the size of a mobile phone can be identified.

This should make it possible to detect and map different bog plants, based on the colour and photosynthetic activity.

Alistair Lockett, Field Officer with the AONB Partnership, said: “Our first attempt ended in disappointment because the Teesdale winds were too much for the drone.

“However, when we came out to Lunedale for a second time the weather was perfect.”

Northumbrian Water Catchment Adviser for the Pennines, Rob Cooper, added: “By using drones and utilising different imaging cameras, this research will improve our understanding of areas of bare eroded peat at the top of our drinking water catchments, helping us to understand and plan work to re-vegetate those areas suffering the greatest erosion.”

 There are about 900 square kilometres of peatland in the North Pennines and most of it is blanket bog, a unique type of peat habitat, found only in cool, wet regions of the world.

About 27 per cent of England’s blanket bog can be found in the North Pennines and peatlands play a variety of roles from maintaining our drinking water quality and storing carbon, to supporting local employment.

It is hoped the new venture should help to make the process of mapping the area for future restoration work a lot more accurate, efficient and far less labour intensive.

The research work was carried out by Newcastle University and the AONB Partnership hopes it can secure funding to use this technology on other bare peat sites across the North Pennines.


Dr Rachel Gaulton, of Newcastle University, said: “Drones, or UAVs, let us collect data on both the vegetation and terrain over potential restoration sites quickly and, through the images, provide a permanent record of conditions.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work with the AONB Partnership and Northumbrian Water to use these methods on other sites in the future.”