Definition:Drones are lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, controlled remotely. They can be used to take high-resolution images and video footage of landscapes, offering scientists bird’s-eye views; “Analysing drone images allows researchers to cost-effectively survey wildlife, map terrain and monitor ecosystems (Penberthy). In other words, a drone is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard, usually of model aircraft size, that is used to survey or take snap shots in a nature setting. Conservation Drones are cheap and simple, varying in application and climate severity threshold. Inside of a drone, “they are model aircrafts fitted with autopilot systems. Each contains a small computer chip equipped with a GPS, barometric altimeter and other sensors, and carries a payload such as a video or photographic camera (Thu-Huong Ha).
The software then allows the user to view the images or video the drone takes, similar to the layout of Google maps, and the drone can even land itself.History:Drones were first developed for military applications around the era of World War II, they can be classified by size, range, endurance, and what they can carry. The simplest difference
Brown 2between the drones are if they possess the fixed wing or rotary wing. The fixed wing is larger, can travel greater differences, and can contain higher loads. The smaller versions of the fixed wing, which are the conservation drones, are lightweight and cost less than $100 U.S. dollars for the basic unit. This helps lead a pathway into the earliest scientific uses for conservation drones. Lee Tomlins and Manore were the some of the first scientists to encourage the use of drones for wildlife conservation. In Tomlins research, he “identified as many as 46 environmental applications in which small drones could be useful; yet this technology remains unexplored for most such applications (Paneque-GГЎlvez). Many attempts around the 1990s and up into the early 2000s were made to explore the ecological application of drones, but it’s not until the past few years that they started putting these ideas into action.In the early 2000’s, scientists ranged from using a small drone to monitor breeding success in canopy-nesting birds, to surveying elephants. It wasn’t until 2011 when Lian Pin Koh and Serge met to actively begin the innovation of conservation drones. They discussed the challenges of wildlife conservation in the southeast region of Asia. Koh’s drones are now used in remote parts of the Indonesian rainforest to track orangutan nests and monitor the species Population. Ever since the beginning, “orangutan monitoring happens on foot with binoculars, and in the past it has cost up to a quarter of a million dollars to estimate the size of the population in this Region (Thu-Huong Ha). Koh has revolutionized the way we can monitor nature,
Brown 3cost-effectively and without invading the territory. In 2012, other scientists went on the use the drones for analyzing forest biodiversity and to catch any illegal acts of deforestation. In 2013, Hodgson used the conservation drone to count Dugongs in Australia and watch the elephants population in Burkina Faso. To this day, “UAVs are being deployed by researchers and conservationists to monitor threats to biodiversity, collect frequent aerial imagery, estimate population abundance, and deter Poaching (Ditmer). Drones continue to be promoted for ecological research due to the affordability, flexibility, and safety of this technology.
Application: Koh and his team had the opportunity to capture dozens of pictures of the orangutans nesting spots. They are now trying to automatically detect the nests by using an algorithm which differentiates the pictures of the nests. Koh has also sparked the idea of using thermal imaging to start detecting poachers. At this rate, we can use these conservation drones to monitor thousands of other species, our forests, and illegal deforestation or logging. Another example of conservation drones in the field would be the monitoring of two species of African rhinoceros, the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros. In the 1990’s, they were driven to near extinction. More so recently, their population growth has begun to decline again. The two species are still vulnerable; the white rhinoceros classified as Near Threatened and black rhinoceros is Critically Endangered. South Africa contains the highest rhinoceros population, “with 83% of Africa’s individuals, and also
Brown 4experiences the highest absolute levels of poaching, which is the main threat for their conservation ( Mulero-Pazmany). Over the last few years, and despite the anti poaching laws, poaching numbers of the rhinoceros still continue to rise. The rhinoceros poaching is a complicated problem which offers limited solutions. With the ideology in many Asian countriesthat the horns of rhinoceros contain nourishments and have the power to heal, the prices of the horn in the black market are high. This enables “a temptation to people with scarce resources, as the market value of one horn-set may be equal to the salary of several years for the Poacher (Mulero-Pazmany). This is where the conservation drone can come into play. Despite the fact that national parks may have security reinforcements, drones can add to the security by giving one a birds eye view of the protected lands. Drones have the ability to snap shot any persecutors and bring them to justice, hopefully discouraging others from illegal poaching. Drones can cover acres of land within half the time it would take for someone to do on foot.With this high grade technology, it can directly affect a species population number if we can start catching people before they get the opportunity to continue to hunt these endangered animals. On the other hand, according to Sandbrook’s research, drones can also deliver seeds as part of forest restoration projects; if an area was over harvested, these drones can quickly and more effectively distribute seeds. All together, the conservation drones are suitable for boundary patrols, restoring lands, and for collecting evidence of illegal activities.