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"Can Drone Mapping Help Save Endangered Salmon Habitat?"

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) works to ensure a unified voice in the overall management of the fishery resources, and its managers strive to protect reserved treaty rights through the exercise of the inherent sovereign powers of the tribes. One of their four primary goals is to put fish back in the rivers and protect watersheds where fish live within the regions of their members who include Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes in the Pacific Northwest.


To help towards their mission, CRITFC called on Cayuse Native Solutions to help collect valuable data that is being used to inform salmon habitat management decisions.

man with headset standing on bridge looking up at flying drone

Harnessing Drone LiDAR Mapping for River Conservation

Utilizing advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—more widely recognized as drones—Cayuse Native Solutions expertly captured critical LiDAR and high-resolution imagery data of the confluence where the Klickitat River merges with the Columbia River. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, employs laser light to generate precise 3D models of the environment. LIDAR mapping is indispensable for assessing and managing the intricate natural landscapes that are crucial to local ecosystems and cultural heritage.

The confluence area has been monitored for many years as significant sediment buildup poses a dire threat to salmon habitats by altering water flow and quality. This is first time drone mapping for the restoration of salmon habitat has been attempted in this area.

Our targeted data collection at this junction provides critical insights that drive the formulation of effective conservation strategies, ensuring the vitality of the salmon population and the overall health of the river ecosystem.  Updated data was needed to allow further study to inform future decision making.

Cayuse Native Solutions: Expertise in Environmental Monitoring Drone Solutions

Before deploying our drones, the Cayuse team collaborated closely with CRITFC and Tribal staff to meticulously understand the specific data needs and Columbia River habitat management objectives. This preliminary groundwork ensured that our data collection would be precisely targeted to the project's requirements.


Our drone experts then carefully scouted the area and crafted two distinct flight paths, enabling us to gather essential data swiftly, safely, and accurately—all within the stringent guidelines of FAA Part 107 regulations.

The invaluable data we collected is set to play a pivotal role in reshaping the delta regions along the Klickitat River and upriver stretches of the Columbia. These modifications aim to enhance the habitat, bolstering salmon survival and promoting the health of the ecosystem.

aerial view of water body with yellow lines over the image indicating planned flight path

CRITFC has commended our efforts:

“Cayuse Native Solutions demonstrated a high level of expertise and professionalism. Their adeptness in deploying UAS to address challenges in rugged terrain and adverse weather conditions significantly enhanced our data collection and deepened our comprehension of the study area. We greatly appreciate the collaboration with the tribally owned Cayuse Native Solutions on this pilot assessment.”

Explore More

For a deeper dive into our project details, check out our comprehensive 2-page flyer describing how Cayuse Native Solutions is providing indigenous environmental monitoring solutions.

If your tribe has natural resource or climate change projects that call for detailed mapping data and imagery, reach out to Cayuse to see how we can help.

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We’ll be at the spring convention of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians May 20-22, 2024 if you’d like to meet and discuss the drone mapping solutions Cayuse can offer.

green yellow blue and purple shades representing various heights and depths of a river channel


Cayuse Native Solutions (CNS) provides technology focused solutions for Tribes, Tribal entities, Native owned businesses, and other organizations serving Indigenous communities and people. CNS is wholly owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR)


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