|15 February 2017|

USA

Drones can offer ecologists support in monitoring wildlife, a new study has revealed.

A study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have the potential to become an important tool for land managers and ecologists.

The trial looked at bird surveys – which provide crucial data for environmental management – but have limitations as certain areas are hard to access, and surveyors vary in their skills at identifying birds.

To test how UAVs would fare, Andrew Wilson of Gettysburg College and his team used a fishing line to suspend an audio recorder from a simple drone, first in trial runs on college athletic fields and then in real bird surveys on Pennsylvania State Game Lands. The results compared favourably with those achieved in traditional ground-based surveys.

Andrew said: “The inspiration for the study came while I was surveying forests in the Appalachian Mountain in Pennsylvania for Cerulean Warblers. All of our survey work was done from roadsides or hiking trails, for logistical reasons and to maximize survey efficiency, but I was always aware that our sample locations were very biased and that we were missing key areas such as steep forested slopes.”

McGill University‘s David Bird, who is the founding editor of the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, added: ‘What an amazingly simplistic but useful application of a drone for bird research–I wish I had thought of it.”