Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or more commonly known as drones, are becoming ever so popular in the modern era. A technology that was originally only available to the military or the wealthy is now becoming a common sight on commercial store shelves.
As a result of the widening availability of drones, and as the price on drones continues to drop, their myriads of uses are becoming clearer. Even scientists are finding uses for them throughout the Earthly environment.
In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, University of Adelaide researcher Jarrod Hodgson, and his colleagues, detail how drones can be incredibly useful for surveying different environments to keep track of wildlife populations.
Up in the air, drones give scientists a much more accurate view of large groups of animals than they would have surveying them from the ground. In the research, Hodgson and his colleagues surveyed the grounds of different kinds of sea birds, and consistently found higher numbers of them in UAV-based surveys than they did from ground-based surveys.
The evidence suggests that scientists looking to keep track of animal populations will have better and more accurate head counts with UAVs than they will trying to keep count from the ground with binoculars and a pair of human eyes.
“The increased count precision afforded by UAVs, along with their ability to survey hard-to-reach populations and places, will likely drive many wildlife monitoring projects that rely on population counts to transition from traditional methods to UAV technology,” the report notes.
What’s more is because drones hover high above the environments of these animals, their presence hardly disturbs the animals in their natural habitat like human interference would, and photographs that were captured by the drones were significantly crisper.
Although the initial experimentations show UAVs being useful for sighting the populations of sea birds, there’s no reason that the same head-counting methods couldn’t be used across desert plains, forests, and other environment types to keep an eye on different species.