Drones help map Deer Island

Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 4:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 11:44 PM CDT
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It's the next step in conserving and promoting Deer Island. The Department of Marine Resources...
It's the next step in conserving and promoting Deer Island. The Department of Marine Resources and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced details of a joint mapping project. (Photo source: WLOX)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Drones flying over Deer Island in Biloxi is the key element of a joint project between the Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Secretary of State.

It's a mapping exercise that will serve both science and tourism. Project details were unveiled at a news conference on the Biloxi schooner pier with Deer Island in the background.

"We've got all of these things on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that you can do. Restaurants, the people, the culture. It's all here," said Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann. "So if we can get people to stay one more day and go to your island, it is a huge economic benefit for Mississippi,"

A team from Mississippi State University collected drone video and still images for the mapping project.

Flyover scenes will be used for tourism marketing, and maps created by piecing together still images will serve the scientific purpose.

"Not just videos and pictures which look really nice, but actually help us manage vegetation, flora and fauna. Look at, annually, where the island may be experiencing changes so we can do adaptive management and make sure we're prepared for that," said DMR executive director, Jamie Miller.

The MSU team created a mosaic of still images that offer sharp details of Deer Island.

"Provide them a map that gets down to the level they can detect eggs, find out where nests are, count birds. Measure marine debris. Find out what's washed up. How much trash is being left behind," said Robert Moorhead with the MSU team.

Hosemann has long been a proponent of increasing public access to Deer Island. The pier project came to fruition in 2016, and Hosemann says the mapping project is another step forward.

"I know if we can get people to stay one more day in Mississippi, it's worth a lot of money. And I'm proud of our coast; I'm very proud of our island," said Hosemann.

The DMR and Secretary of State's office would like to establish a public ferry service to take visitors to and from Deer Island. However, despite an interest from several possible boat captains, that service has not yet begun.

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