A new guide to the use of drones for conservation

Drones are a powerful preservation tool – but they should only be used after careful study and planning, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by WWF, identifies “best practices” for using drones effectively and safely, while minimizing impacts on wildlife. This is the fifth installment in a series on conservation techniques and methodologies.

The lead authors are Dr. Karen Anderson and Dr. James Duffy, from the Institute for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Exeter.

“This is a step-by-step handbook for conservation practitioners – not just academics – to understand the benefits, opportunities, limitations and risks of drone technology,” said Dr. Anderson.

“ Drones are often hailed as a panacea to conservation problems, but in this guide we explain – referring to detailed case studies by conservation managers and scientists – how and where drones can be used to provide useful information, and what are the main considerations surrounding them. Be use “.

Dr Karen Anderson leads the University of Exeter’s DroneLab Laboratory, and the research conducted within her group has developed drone methodologies in Geography, Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

The World Wildlife Fund worked with the Exeter team to produce this report, after submitting it to their DroneLab for hands-on training a few years ago.

Aurélie Shapiro is a senior remote sensing specialist from WWF Germany’s Space + Science group.
She said, “I bought a drone online, like a lot of people because we have a lot of applications for this technology that can be accessed.

“It is through DroneLab that I realize I have a lot of homework to do in terms of ensuring safety for both humans and wildlife in my research.

“ Instructions on how to plan, and what to consider – among the myriad of technology options – are invaluable.

“It was clear that we needed to deliver this wealth of information to the growing drone community so that scientists lead by example with good protocols.”

The report includes examples of practical case studies from environmentalists and environmental scientists and includes a list of “best practices” for drones:

  • Adoption of the “precautionary principle”. Little is known about the sensitivity of different animals to drones, and care must be taken if endangered species or sensitive habitats are involved.
  • Researchers must follow all ethical rules and processes established by their institution.
  • Be aware of local and national laws and regulations, and seek approval where appropriate.
  • Use the appropriate drone for the job, while being aware of the impact of noise and visual stimuli on target and non-target species.
  • Minimize wildlife disturbance by launching and landing away from animals, keeping distance and keeping flying movements steady.
  • Observe humans and animals during flights. If distress occurs, stop.
  • Accurately report methods and results in publications to help others practice good.


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