Drones can provide a more precise picture of nesting seabird colonies than traditional methods used in wildlife conservation, according to a Australian study of polar and tropical birds.

Lead author PhD candidate Mr Jarrod Hodgson said: “Until now we didn’t really know how precise drone technology was at monitoring changes in
population size.”

The researchers found the estimates made from the images captured by drones were consistently similar or larger than ground-based counts. There was less variation in the number of birds identified by people trawling through the photos.

“The downward-facing perspective of drone imagery reduces the likelihood of missed counts due to topography and birds obscuring the counters’ line of sight,” explained Mr Hodgson.

The still photos also allow researchers to zoom into a smaller area of the colony, and complete the count over a longer timeframe.

This is a thoughtful, in-depth story with interviews with a number of scientists. The consensus seems to be that drones are a great addition to the toolkit but not a replacement for existing methods. In particular there are situations where the human eye is still faster and more adept.




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