Zurich, Switzerland: The Orangutan Conservancy, the Denver Zoo; Lian Pin Koh, an ecologist at the ETH Zürich; Serge Wich, a biologist at the University of Zürich; and PanEco, developed a drone (UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) equipped with cameras, sensors and GPS. They claimed that the UAV will help map deforestation, count orangutans and other endangered species, and get a bird’s eye view of hard-to-access forest areas in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Now, these low-cost UAVs will be used by conservation biologist in the tropics to survey forests and biodiversity.
Ecologist Koh explained, “The drone is almost fully autonomous, which means it can take-off and fly on autopilot. The user pre-programs each mission on a laptop computer by clicking waypoints along a planned flight path on a Google Map. Based on this flight path and the onboard sensors (GPS, altitude sensor, airspeed sensor, etc), the drone will take off automatically, fly to every waypoint, and then return to the user. During the mission, the drone can take photographs or videos depending on the camera system installed.”
In an interview to mongabay.com an ecologist said, “This may offer a cost-effective way of counting wildlife over difficult terrain. Having imagery of far higher resolution than from satellites is essential for such work and it offers a viable alternative in places where helicopter or plane costs are too high”.
These drones can also be used as an effective alternative to satellite images for mapping the landscape. The low-cost drone can monitor forests, detect fires, and map land use in real-time.