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Machines to aid in tracking erosion

Nicholls State University in Thibodaux is taking a new perspective on tracking coastal erosion and the health of Louisiana's barrier islands more closely.

The islands are an important habitant for migratory birds and a front-line protection against hurricanes, but the islands have undergone heavy erosion as the state's coast has faded into the Gulf of Mexico.

Often the province of satellites and airplanes, university officials say the coastal mapping effort by Nicholls, which is in its early stages, is being tried with a six-foot, unmanned aircraft that has a four-foot wingspan and a small propeller engine.

The Advocate reports that Nicholls State is one of 61 universities, police departments and other government agencies with Federal Aviation Administration authorization to use unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

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