With the arrival of cool autumn weather comes the eye-popping phenomenon of leaves changing color throughout New England, as bright greens give way to dazzling bursts of red, orange, and yellow.
For eager leaf peepers hitting the road and heading north, or planning to explore the region’s hiking trails, it’s the perfect time to get a closer look at the impressive scenery.
But there’s another group of fall-foliage devotees who are providing a different view of “forest fashion week” as some states enter the peak season.
Drone operators in recent days have been posting videos on social media of colorful leaves blanketing the rolling hills and mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, giving people a stunning bird’s-eye view.
Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, director of the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory, said the school began using drones about a decade ago. He now oversees a team of drone pilots and photographers who use the technology for everything from disaster responses to tracking changes in the forest.
In the past few years, his group has added foliage to its mix of specialties, much to the delight of people who can’t make a day trip to enjoy the fall spectacle in person.
“I think they just really resonate with people, especially during COVID, when a lot of us found solace in nature and just the beauty,” said O’Neil-Dunne, who was introduced to drone technology while serving in the military. “We bring a lot of joy to people, and I think drones have provided us this wonderful way to see our planet from above in particularly challenging times.”
Drones also allow the team to track how the landscape changes over time, O’Neil-Dunne said, which is especially useful when it comes to fall foliage and understanding the effects of climate change on the forests.
But peak foliage season doesn’t last long. So when the opportunity arrives, O’Neil-Dunne and a group of staff and students take full advantage of the splendor.
“It’s such a unique perspective on looking down on our planet,” he said. “I think that really resonates with people because it’s such an interesting perspective of our landscape that we — most of the time — don’t have access to, and it provides an interesting and insightful window into this really magical time of year.”
We have too much awesomeness from #Vermont forest fashion week to tweet only once per day...and I have more fun reviewing the videos from our @UVM_RSENR #drone team than answer emails (apologies to those who sent me emails). pic.twitter.com/BaLqIzDKF4— Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne (@jarlathond) October 6, 2022
On social media, people have praised O’Neil-Dunne and his team for the rare overhead view.
“I do love living on the West Coast but I sure miss the fall [colors] where I grew up in Ottawa,” wrote Luba Reshitnyk of the Hakai Institute in British Columbia. “Thanks @jarlathond and [the] drone team for letting me virtually experience one of our planet’s most glorious natural wonders.”
Seth Acton, an avid outdoorsman, has been making YouTube videos documenting his hiking and backpacking adventures for some time. But more than a year ago, he decided to try something new and picked up a drone to expand his video portfolio. The Charlestown, R.I., resident said the technology provides an entirely different experience, particularly in the mountains.
Compared to hiking, when foliage can appear to be a blur of yellow from the birch trees changing color at eye-level, moving the drone over the trees and hills captures “how vast the sea of color really is.”
“It’s just a very special time of the year. The mountains are beautiful any time of the year, but especially in the fall when suddenly the landscapes of green hills just erupt in different colors,” said Acton, 44. “With the drone footage, you can really just get a different view of just these incredible patchwork landscapes.”
See more clips of the fall foliage captured by drone footage:
Here’s a drone flight over the Deerfield river near Searsburg Vermont earlier today. Absolutely stunning colors! @VermonsterWx @SurfSkiWeather @BradFieldWx @DHTheWeatherNut @nickdigiWX @WeatherNation @JimCantore @elonmusk @KristySwansonXO pic.twitter.com/SOMd2ijynl— Scott (@Thebigblackram) October 4, 2022