Drones Better Than Humans At Monitoring Wildlife - Australian Study

Last update: 14/02/2018

CANBERRA, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- Australian researchers from the University of Adelaide deployed thousands of rubber ducks to prove that drones are more accurate at monitoring wildlife than humans, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Authors of the study, which was released on Wednesday, said rubber ducks were deployed on an Adelaide beach where experienced wildlife spotters were pitted against spotters who counted birds from drone imagery to see which group would get closest to the actual number of fake birds.

"For a few years now, drones have been used to monitor different animals that can be seen from above, including elephants, seals and nesting birds. But, until now, the accuracy of using drones to count wildlife was unclear," lead author Jarrod Hodgson said in a media release on Wednesday.

"We needed to test the technology where we knew the correct answer. We couldn't use wild animals because we could never be sure of the real number of individuals present.

"Ground spotters counted the birds using binoculars or telescopes while a drone was flown over the beach, taking pictures from different heights and angles.

"We found it is more accurate and more precise to have people count birds from the drone imagery than to do it on location."

Hodgson and his team then developed a computer algorithm capable of counting birds from the drone images which yielded results on par with humans counting from the images.

"With so many animals across the world facing extinction, our need for accurate wildlife data has never been greater. Accurate monitoring can detect small changes in animal numbers.

"That is important because if we have to wait for a big shift in those numbers to notice the decline, it may be too late to conserve a threatened species.

"Our results show that monitoring animals with drones produces better data that we can use to proactively manage wildlife," he said.