Along the coast of the Carolinas, cameras attached to kites are collecting aerial images of protective barrier dunes in order to observe how they are changing over time, Sierra Magazine reports.
Why it matters: Barrier dunes buffer beaches from storm destruction. Elsemarie DeVries, who leads a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill carrying out the study, told Sierra her primary concern is that rising ocean tides and powerful storms threaten dune ecosystems that don't have enough time to rebuild themselves between storms.
How they do it: The cameras take 200 to 400 images that are digitally combined to produce a topographical model of the dunes which researchers can use to track height, width and volume. Kites were chosen because they are far less expensive than drones.
Spencer Rogers, coastal construction and erosion specialist at the University of North Carolina, says one option is beach nourishment — the practice of moving sand from one part of the beach to another. Still, these man-made dunes lack the stability of naturally formed ones that are anchored by plants.