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Technology:Earth | Ecology and Autonomy – from Drones to Decision Making

Over the last decade, drones and other platforms providing the potential of large-scale autonomy have moved from the realm of high-budget, defense-oriented programs to easily accessible, consumer-oriented systems.   Getting from this potential to deployable and useful systems; however, still requires specialized application domain knowledge and smart engineering.  A wide range of interesting solutions has begun to emerge from the academic, government, and private sectors, driven by different groups of users and program goals.   A common theme of these solutions is to go from automated data gathering to decision support in conservation and environmental applications.

In this Technology:Earth webinar, we will learn about current state-of-the-art data gathering via platforms providing various degrees of autonomy, and the use of this data in decision support systems.  Dr. Nisar Ahmed, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, and the University of Colorado, will describe the current approaches to large-scale autonomous data gathering and some example uses in a range of environmental applications.  Dr. Brad Hanson, Wildlife Biologist, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center will showcase a drone-based approach to monitoring the health of wild orcas in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.  Dr. Debbie Saunders, CEO & Founder of Wildlife Drones, will describe her company’s solution and platform for biodiversity monitoring in support of conservation policy. 

Improving human health through technology drives us at Triple Ring Technologies.  Today, we recognize that human health is not supportable without a healthy planet. Ensuring a healthy environment for current generations and sustainable management of our planetary resources for future generations is a natural extension of our mission.  Triple Ring is pleased to announce that we are expanding our practice into technologies for the environment and sustainability.

Our new Technology:Earth webinar series convenes world experts and technologists working on a variety of environmental challenges to frame the problems and the challenges of scale-up, and to discuss viable solutions.  Our goal is to connect individuals working in these problem spaces with the innovation ecosystem that has successfully delivered life-changing solutions in the biotech space.


Thu. Mar. 21, 2024 | 1pm


Sheila Hemami has over 25 years of experience in research and development in the academic and private sectors, with an emphasis on identifying early-stage technologies to address unmet needs and accelerating technology transfer.  She currently heads East Coast operations and directs the environmental and sustainability portfolio at Triple Ring Technologies (Boston and Silicon Valley).  Before joining Triple Ring, Dr. Hemami was with the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA, where she directed internal research and development and created a new business unit dedicated to addressing unmet technical needs for underserved medical populations and the environment. Dr. Hemami started her technical career at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and was a professor of electrical engineering and academic leader for 22 years (Cornell University for 20 years; Northeastern University for 3 years).  She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

Nisar Ahmed is an Associate Professor in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is a member of the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV) and directs the Cooperative Human-Robot Intelligence (COHRINT) Lab. He received his B.S.E. from Cooper Union in 2006 and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell in 2012. He was awarded the 2011 AIAA GNC Conference Best Paper Award; an ASEE Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship in 2014; the 2018 ACGSC Dave Ward Memorial Lecture Award; Smead Aerospace Faculty Fellowship (2021-2023) and Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Mentorship Award (2021). His work has been supported by DARPA, the DoD, NASA, and multiple industry sponsors. He has organized several international workshops and symposia on autonomous robotics, sensor fusion, and human-machine interaction. He is the CU Site Director of the NSF IUCRC Center for Aerial Autonomy, Mobility, and Sensing (CAAMS).

Dr. Debbie Saunders, PhD Conservation Ecology is Wildlife Drones’ Founder and CEO. As a specialist in threatened species management and innovation, she has managed multi-million-dollar projects involving highly diverse teams to solve complex ecological problems and develop world-first technologies.  Her previous ecological research required new solutions which led Debbie to establish Wildlife Drones in 2016. Wildlife Drones has gone on to win multiple National and International business and innovation awards including: 2022 Airwards Global Conservation and Environment, 2022 Banksia Biodiversity and Ignite Awards Finalist for Business Sustainability, and 2023 Winner of Global Women and Drones Innovation Award.

Brad Hanson joined the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in April of 2003. Previously, Brad worked as a Wildlife Biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, WA. Brad received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington where he worked on the development of improved tag attachment systems for small cetaceans. He also holds an M.S. in Fisheries from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Zoology, also from the University of Washington.  Brad is an ecologist and is currently studying foraging and habitat use of Southern Resident killer whales.  He is also working on assessing the health of Southern Resident killer whales as well as harbor and Dall’s porpoises.