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UW permitted to operate drones from parks for environmental research

If you spot a UFO in a Seattle parks this year, it’s likely a UAV – or a drone, as most of us call it – operated by a research team from the University of Washington. While drones are prohibited in Seattle Parks (SMC 18.12.265), the University’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health applied for a special permit to conduct air quality research that will measure how various types of vegetation filter out harmful ultra-fine particles. The drone will test from several south Seattle parks under the flight paths of aircraft landing at SeaTac airport and along busy roads in that area, as well as from a few locations near the University.

The drone is not equipped with a camera; any photographic equipment that may be added would be to record the presence of aircraft flying above it, aimed upwards and away from people on the ground. The research team may photograph the measurement area from ground level to characterize nearby vegetation and possible pollution sources.

The project will run from March through November 2021, and results of the study will be shared with Seattle Parks and Recreation in hopes of informing future horticultural and forestry efforts within the City park system.

Parks that will be used for the study include Jefferson Park, Judkins Park and Playfield, Rainier Beach Playfield, 12th Ave South Viewpoint, and South Park Playground. During testing, measures will be taken to ensure public safety, with signage and caution tape deployed at the testing site.

For more information about the project, please contact Edmund Seto, 206-543-1475 or Tim Gould, 206-543-8195, both at the University of Washington.