Identifying invasive species in New York

In collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Ramboll’s Galago team developed a pilot-scale methodology for monitoring large tracts of land for giant hogweed, an invasive plant harmful to both human and ecosystem health. Galago collected high-resolution imagery using a small, unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) or drone across approximately 1,100 acres near Hemlock-Canadice State Forest in Springwater, New York.
RFI brand photoshoot in Espoo, Finland. Environmental specialist taking a picture of forest vegetation in Nuuksio National Park, Finland.

We then developed an artificial intelligence (AI) model to detect the invasive species in the drone imagery. During the model training process, we reserved a portion of training data to evaluate model performance for accuracy, precision, recall, and more. The model was then deployed across all collected imagery, including imagery not used for training data, to a create site-wide map of invasive species locations. We provided a digital site-wide map to NYSDEC field crews. With this information in hand, the crew was able to navigate to precise locations identified in our model, effectively complete management and eradication activities, and ground truth.

AI helps scale land monitoring methodologies using sUAS imagery across numerous image captures. The combination of high-resolution imagery and AI has the potential to reduce time in the field, identify previously unknown areas of invasive plants, and help cover more area than possible with field work alone.

Giant hogweed


Giant hogweed, also known as Heracleum mantegazzianum, is often a non-native, invasive plant species that can grow up to 14 feet tall. It has large, umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers and leaves that can grow up to 5 feet wide. It has a green stem with purple splotches, and stiff white hairs that can cause skin irritation and blistering when skin is exposed to sunlight. If you suspect you have giant hogweed on your property, take precautions to avoid contact with the sap and report it to local authorities.

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