Unmanned Arial Vehicle technology has already made a splash in the front pages, often for projects that are years away from fruition – think Amazon and their mooted drone delivery service.
However, one way that it can have an immediate and tangible benefit is with the monitoring of nesting bird species, and the promotion of areas that would be of interest to tourists.
Dr. Paul Morrison, the Coquet Island site manager for the RSPB, said: “Helishoot conducted a trial filming on Coquet Island ahead of the season’s influx of nesting terns.
“The immediate impact of using this equipment was the obvious new dimension it offered the RSPB Coquet team to promote the reserve in a new innovative way,” he continued.
“There is huge potential for expanding this approach in the future as well as helping with monitoring of the nesting bird species on Coquet. In particular it would be very useful to help find large gull chicks that hide in the dense vegetation on the island, using an infra red camera. This would be easy to achieve as this work could be carried out towards the end of the season when there is minimal risk to disturbing sensitive or protected species such as roseate terns.”
For those worried about the impact a UAV would have on the nesting population of birds can put their fears to bed. “The interaction with puffins and large gulls, whilst in flight was nil, with gulls flying past the device at close quarters with no visual alarm discernible,” said Dr Morrison.
UAV technology could also be used to protect, as well as to monitor. “It would be interesting to see if a small loudspeaker could be attached to use as a scaring method for playing alarm calls to frighten large gulls from the island in spring and autumn,” Dr. Morrison concluded.
Drones are already being used in other parts of the country to keep track of cranes and corncrakes, which are being reintroduced to the British Isles following their disappearance from the land.
UAV tech is already being used in other areas of business, including in agriculture, where it has been used to monitor crops in much the same way that they have monitored the puffin population on Coquet Island.
Their uses could also include the conservation of old buildings, as well as the production of 3D maps to determine when and where repairs are needed.
Helishoot is a North East based film and survey company that has CAA Permissions to fly commercially and carry out this type of work.
Article contributed by Russell Hughes
As technology advances, more and more applications are being found for the use of drones – unmanned aerial systems – which were initially developed primarily for military use. Conservationists have recognized the value of having ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ in vast untamed regions where poaching is a problem, and countries like Namibia and Nepal are making use of drones to monitor vulnerable wildlife and stop poachers before they strike, rather than tracking them down and catching them after the damage is done. The potential for using drones in bird conservation efforts is diverse, and in the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is reportedly using drone technology to monitor the nests of rare birds and introduced species.
Designed by Nigel Butcher of the RSPB, the drone is powered by six small electric motors that run so quietly they barely make a sound, and most importantly, do not disturb the birds. Using the marsh harrier as an example, Butcher notes that entering the area around the nests to put up cameras may result in the parents deserting the nest, a behavior they are known for. The drone, on the other hand, can fly in and film activity in the nest, transmitting images via live video feed to researchers. Moreover, birds and mammals that are active at night can be tracked with the use of thermal imaging technology, providing valuable information to researchers.
In addition to monitoring the breeding patterns of marsh harriers and bitterns, the drone technology is being used to keep track of cranes and corncrakes which are being reintroduced into areas in the UK, from where they had disappeared. Drones will also be used to film inaccessible nesting areas in the Minsmere Reserve for the BBC Spring Watch series. Located on the Suffolk coast, RSPB Minsmere is one of the UK’s most biodiverse reserves, and viewers will have the opportunity to see some of its natural bounty right in their own homes, starting on May 26 and running for three weeks.