Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, have the potential to revolutionise ecology and conservation, according to a study at New Zealand’s Monash University.
The report, published in the journal Scientific Reports, posits that drones are much more effective at monitoring the size of seabird colonies than traditional ground-counting methods.
“Until now, it has been unclear as to how precise drone technology might be when monitoring the size of populations of wildlife. Our latest research has demonstrated that a very high degree of precision can be achieved when using drone technology to monitor wildlife,” said Dr Rohan Clarke, ecologist at Monash University and one of the authors of the report.
Drones have long been used, primarily, for military purposes. However, in recent years, with many commercial models hitting the shelves, their uses have expanded tremendously. Recreational use is but one new market. Drones are tipped to become increasingly important in ecology and conservation.
UAVs have already been used to monitor elephant populations and nesting birds, however, their efficacy was not yet tested – until now. The report conducted two monitoring exercises on Ashmore Reef and Macquarie Island.
One experiment used traditional ground methods, the other used drones. The difference in precision was startling.