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Open-File Report 2014–1205

Prepared in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Evaluation of the Raven sUAS to Detect and Monitor Greater Sage-Grouse Leks within the Middle Park Population

By Leanne Hanson, Christopher L. Holmquist-Johnson, and Michelle L. Cowardin

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (16.3 MB)Abstract

Staff from the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hot Sulphur Springs Office began discussions in 2011 for a proof of concept study to test the Raven RQ-11A small Unmanned Aircraft System (Raven sUAS) for its suitability to detect and monitor greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) breeding sites (leks). During April 2013, the Raven sUAS was flown over two known lek sites within the Middle Park population in Grand County, Colorado. Known sites were flown to determine the reaction of the greater sage-grouse to the aircraft and to determine if the technology had potential for future use of locating new leks and obtaining population counts on known, active lek sites.

The Raven sUAS is a hand-launched reconnaissance and data-gathering tool developed for the U.S. Department of Defense by AeroVironment, Inc. Originally designed to provide aerial observation, day or night, at line-of-site ranges up to 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), the Raven sUAS has a wingspan of 4.5 feet (1.38 meters) and weighs 4.2 pounds (1.9 kilograms). A 60-minute lithium-ion rechargeable battery powers the system which also transmits live video (color or infrared imagery), compass headings, and location information to a ground control station. The Raven sUAS is typically operated by a three-person flight crew consisting of a pilot, mission operator, and a trained observer.

First posted November 18, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Fort Collins Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2150 Centre Ave. Building C
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118

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Suggested citation:

Hanson, Leanne, Holmquist-Johnson, C.L., and Cowardin, M.L., 2014, Evaluation of the Raven sUAS to detect and monitor Greater Sage-Grouse leks within the Middle Park population: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1205, 20 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)




Study Observations


Future Studies


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