Posted by John Ester on Sep 19, 2017
Dennis Wiand developed a business known as Zero Gravity Aerial that uses drones to survey lakes to find aquatic invasive species, among other things.
After 30 years as a commercial photographer Dennis moved north and became certified to pilot drones.  As part of his education at Northwestern Michigan College he was required to find a new commercial application for drones, and the result was Zero Gravity Aerial.  Many lakes in northern Michigan and elsewhere have been invaded by an aggressive alien plant known as Eurasian water milfoil.  There are several ways to find milfoil in a lake, but most have disadvantages of one sort or another--such as the difficulty of seeing in the water.
From a power boat in the lake Dennis operates a drone that takes still images from 270' in the air that are then stitched together, ending up with an overlay for a Google map.  Once aquatic material is seen, Dennis can gather some up with a rake to determine whether it is the invasive version of the milfoil.  Thus, he can determine where the milfoil is and provide aerial guidance for application of product to eradicate it.
Dennis provides similar service at lakes for other purposes, such as to survey a shoreline for erosion or to locate the nests of common mergansers known to cause swimmer's itch.  Drones also have been used in connection with a water project in Honduras, to aid tax assessors who are required to examine private property to which they have been denied access, and with regard to emergency management.
From the many questions fielded by Dennis it was apparent that his presentation was of great interest to his audience.