All About Green

Drones for Conservation Use

Dec 2022
Author: Green Power
Drone flied across countryside
Photo from Pixabay

Unmanned aerial vehicles, generally referred to as drones, are light in weight with high stability that allow them to be widely employed in low altitude aerial photography. Today, the technology is also used in film making, transport of urgent medical supplies (e.g. in Africa), and environmental conservation.

In 2019, the drone was deployed to monitor poaching activities in remote marshes of Madagascar. A 20-minute flight can substitute a two-day canoeing work of the staff. The new technology saves a lot of manpower and resources, and is particularly important in area with sparse population and remote sites of monitoring.

One outstanding feature of the drone is its accessibility to high risk area. The Geotechnical Engineering Office started a trial in 2021 of aerial seed sowing on landslide scars to prevent further soil erosion with the utilization of drones. Compared with sending workers to build work platforms and carry out plantation work on dangerous slopes, deployment of the drones protects workers while cutting down time and cost as much as 90%.

Improper use harm to ecology

Although there are many benefits of using drones for conservation purpose, improper use will bring undesirable impacts on nature too. In 2016, an intruding drone operated by photography enthusiast in Qinghai Lake severely affected the waterfowls in the area. Overnight, more than 300 Whooper Swans, a species under Grade-II state priority conservation, were scared away with about 20 birds remained. The incident led to an official ban of drone flying in reserve area of wild animals and birds and only after a while the number of Whooper Swan would return.

As the use of easy-to-fly drones for aerial photography becomes popular among enthusiasts who find them more affordable and convenient, many experts warn about the potential interference the technology will bring to wildlife in nature. Few years ago, for example, researchers from The University of Adelaide wrote in the journal Current Biology and highlighted the need for a code of best practice in the use of drones with careful consideration of the environment.