Drone News

Researchers have used drones equipped with koala-seeking heat sensors to map the marsupials' population in Brisbane from 60 metres above the tree canopy.

The joint Queensland University of Technology-Brisbane City Council pilot study was in addition to a project in which koala-sniffing dogs and human field workers walked through bushland to identify where Brisbane's koalas could be found.

Sniffing dogs and field walkers identified “high koala activity” in bushland at Belmont, Burbank, Kuraby, Wishart, Bardon, Mt Coot-tha, McDowall, Anstead, Moggill, Alderley, Nathan and Mt Gravatt.

Researchers hoped drones could be a more cost-effective method of identification and mapping of koalas and other endangered species than walk-throughs of bushland.

QUT koala ecologist Grant Hamilton and his team have developed a way of using computer algorithms to read data from a heat-sensing camera flown by a drone.

“We are flying high-tech sensors using drones and we are taking the data that comes from the thermal imagery, which means it captures the heat from animals,” Dr Hamilton said.New drone-supported technology is emerging which could make it faster and cheaper to map koalas.

New drone-supported technology is emerging which could make it faster and cheaper to map koalas.CREDIT:BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL

“We feed that thermal imagery into an artificial intelligence algorithm and we use those algorithms to automatically determine the kind of organisms are using that system, so it might be koalas or it might be kangaroos, for example.

“What we do when we fly over the area, we can count the number of koalas in the area.

“We are getting up to 100 per cent accuracy at the moment using this system.”

The algorithm identified everything that was “not a koala”, Dr Hamilton said, so only koalas showed up in the imagery.

Trials have been flown in bushland near Petrie, where the University of the Sunshine Coast Moreton Bay campus was being built.

“We have also flown in northern New South Wales and we hope to do some extra sites in Brisbane soon,” Dr Hamilton said.

The thermal imagery could cover about 20 hectares in about two hours.

“The aim here is to find a methodology to identify a system where we can help many species, not just one,” Dr Hamilton said.

Thermal imagery from sensors on drones has identified koalas (ringed in yellow) in Petrie bushland.

He said better data was a conservationist's best friend.

“Realistically, the conservation budget is always limited, so if you can do the same job more cheaply that is great thing to do.

"If you can do it better – more cheaply – that is an even better outcome.”

Dr Hamilton said in certain environments the team - which included data scientist Evangeline Corcoran and artificial intelligence algorithm specialist Simon Denman – was getting 100 per cent accuracy.

“We are doing it much more cheaply and we are getting better results than humans are getting," he said.

He said it would take time – and extra research grants – before the research would be used by planning bureaucrats.

“It would be a couple of years away but our aim is to be able to go out with a drone to a particular site, get the data and either have it sent back directly or take the SIM card out of the drone once it comes back, insert it into the computer and get the answer within a half an hour, or an hour.”


Tags: Drone Photography, Conservation, Environment



05/10/2018

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With his landmark book 'Earth From the Air' having sold over four million copies, Yann Arthus-Bertrand is perhaps most responsible for democratizing aerial photography, and making us aware of the beauty of the Earth from above. 

Now though, Arthus-Bertrand has opted to make the switch from using helicopters and hot air balloons (along with his Canon full-frame DSLR kit) to achieve his breathtaking shots to using drones – specifically the DJI Inspire 2 with a Zenmuse X7 camera.

The Zenmuse X7 camera is quite a step up from the cameras found on most entry-level drones, featuring a built-in gimbal and 24MP Super 35mm sensor (with physical dimensions larger than an APS-C sensor) with an impressive 14 stop dynamic range.

“The sensation of flying a camera while staying on the ground is a totally new and amazing experience for me,” said Yann Arthus-Bertrand. “We are able to shoot aerial images from a completely new perspective, and I am convinced that I will continue using drone technology for my work in the future.

Take a look at the video to see how Yann Arthus-Bertrand implemented the DJI Inspire 2 into his latest film project titled 'Woman'. “I wanted to be as flexible as possible when filming the environment and the women who will be the true heroes of the movie,“ he says of the project.


Tags: Aerial Cinematography, Drone Film



05/10/2018

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Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are being effectively deployed in many commercial applications across a swath of industries. The technology is being used in construction work, insurance inspections, agriculture and public safety.

“Regardless of the industry or type of work, it’s always better to work smarter, not harder,” says Clayton A. Harris, chief of police at Cuyahoga Community College and vice president and dean of its Public Safety Center of Excellence. “When technology enables greater efficiency with reduced costs and effort, it’s quickly and aggressively adopted.”

But before companies can use UAVs to help solve problems, they need to be able to identify operators who understand the rules governing drone flight.

Smart Business spoke with Harris about the commercial applications of UAVs, drone training and the regulations that direct their use.


Why are drones becoming more popular for commercial applications?

The pace of drone technology development has been fast. Drones went from being an interest of hobbyists to becoming so widely used that small-scale drones are as easy to operate as toys in the hands of general consumers.

In the commercial realm, drone use has grown exponentially. Not only has the cost of equipment come down, but it’s much easier to retrieve and interpret data collected through UAVs.

Because drone technology is so popular, UAV manufacturers are able to make greater investments in research, materials and development to deliver more advanced capabilities. Drones have become out-of-the-box solutions with many applications.


What laws or regulations are commercial drone operators required to abide by?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which polices the national airspace, is the main governing body for drone flight. Its most significant regulatory milestone is its Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107), which sets operating, registration, pilot certification and airspace authorization requirements.

There are separate rules for pilots flying drones for business and those flying for fun. Operators can incur significant penalties for failing to register certain UAVs or for operating a drone in restricted airspace, such as within a five-mile radius of an airport or flying over a stadium with a seating capacity of more than 30,000 during an event.

Recently, the FAA launched a nationwide beta test of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability to support the safe integration of drones into the nation’s airspace. Through this system, drone operators can receive real-time airspace authorizations to quickly plan their flights.


How can UAV operators improve their skills?

The FAA’s website offers details on UAV operation and flight, and provides a wealth of information on pilot certification and the requirements to pilot small UAVs.

The Ohio/Indiana Center in Springfield, Ohio, is working to advance the commercialization of the technology and support the UAS community in research and development. The organization will assist anyone looking for help with any aspect of UAV, helping operators get up in the air faster.

There are also area schools that offer drone training programs. These courses train pilots in making flight plans and on the laws and regulations governing operation, as well as flight training through simulations and live operation to prepare students to take the FAA Part 107 exam.

There also are industry-specific courses — for example, a training program that introduces law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders to drone technology, its capabilities and how and when to use drones in emergency and homeland security situations.


What should companies know before using drones for commercial purposes?

Before contracting with a pilot, determine if he or she is bonded and insured. Conduct background checks and find out if the pilot has some history of success in the work he or she is being asked to do. Also, check to ensure that the pilot has completed training and is certified to operate the specific UAV required for the task. 


Tags: Drone Photography, Business, Commercial Drones, UAV Operation



02/10/2018

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For the first time, this year's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will see a new kind of aircraft.

A local media company, Colibri Media House, will livestream and produce a promotional video for Balloon Fiesta using high-definition video cameras mounted to a drone.

Colibri President and Chief Pilot Jesse Sansom said the project has been in the works for around a year. His company has been working to change public perception of drones.

"Just the word 'drone' has negative connotations," Sansom said. "Drones offer a platform for capturing video that's a new perspective."

To combat those perceptions, Colibri started hosting gatherings at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum to educate people about the uses of drones and show that they are safe if operated properly. Last year's program was called Drone Discovery Days, and this year, the company says it is holding races on the third Sunday of every month.

The commercial drone market is expected to be worth about $13 billion in 2025, a near 2,000 percent increase since 2015, according to market research firm Statista.

The arrangement between Colibri and the Balloon Fiesta comes with some stipulations.

Colibri's drones will be restricted to a certain area and will not be allowed to fly over patrons. Fiesta Director of Operations Sam Parks said the zone is primarily confined to around the arroyo in Balloon Fiesta Park, as well as the refueling area just north.

The arrangement only covers this year's event, but that could change.

"We hope that this will continue, we'll see how things go this year," Parks said. "When I first met Jesse, I was just struck by his sense of professionalism."

Both Parks and Sansom declined to say how much the deal is worth.

And though the project has the potential to gain Colibri a lot of exposure, it does come with risks.

"One of our biggest concerns is ... rogue drones," Sansom said, adding that keeping unauthorized drones out of the airspace could be key for the success of the endeavor. "My client is the Balloon Fiesta."

To stop those illegally flying, the Fiesta is putting up signs and enlisting the help of an outside company called Aerial Armor, which will be on the lookout for certain types of drones flying during Balloon Fiesta that have not been approved.

An Aerial Armor spokesperson confirmed that the company will provide drone security for the event.


Tags: Aerial Photography, Aerial Footage, Events, Drones



02/10/2018

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There are already 170,000 small, unmanned aerial vehicles licensed in the U.S., and the Federal Aviation Administration predicts another half-million more of them to be airborne by 2022. Drones are everywhere, doing all sorts of things, including delivering hamburgers and beer to golfers. They’re taking group photos, scouting properties and being shot down by neighbours.


They’re also competing, and the competition is serious. Lockheed Martin Corp. has launched a $2 million competition pitting human operators against artificial intelligence in races through obstacle courses at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. Tiny, sensor-laden electronics might sound like a game — but as Lockheed’s interest suggests, they should sound like business. 


As the drone value chain improves — chip sets shrink, cameras become more advanced, machine learning techniques mature — it creates reasons to scale. At the same time, drone applications become ever more apparent.


Around the world, trillions of dollars’ worth of industrial infrastructure is aging, while worker safety and terrorism concerns increase, and climate change increasingly strains power grids, manufacturing facilities, and oil and gas production. Drones offer a cheaper and more effective way of monitoring infrastructure than traditional methods of sending workers to dangerous, remote terrain.


Drones are being used today by grid companies to spot faults or overgrown foliage in transmission and distribution lines across the U.S. Monitoring overgrowth is increasingly important in hot, dry areas increasingly prone to fire — such as in Northern California, where PG&E Corp. may owe as much as $17.3 billion in liabilities from the 2017 fires in wine country. Drones were also used by Duke Energy Corp. to help restore power lines in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria knocked out 80 percent of the island’s electricity access.


Those threat-detection capabilities are money savers, and power-restoration services can be literal lifesavers. But there’s another set of services, more prosaic but potentially just as significant, for the future: operations and maintenance.


New research from Bloomberg NEF assesses the economics of drone inspections in power plants and oil and gas inspection. At offshore wind farms, drone inspection may prevent significant failures resulting in downtime and lost revenues. BNEF calculates that the use of drones on offshore wind farms in Europe could shave off more than $1,000 per turbine per year in inspection costs (reducing the cost of producing electricity by 1 percent).

Dropping by a Thousand

Offshore wind turbine inspection costs, per turbine per year


The same savings apply to solar farms, where drone inspection can lower costs even further, on a proportional basis.

Cheaper When Flying

Solar Project Inspection Costs, per megawatt per year.


As drones improve, so will the services that they can provide. Drones that only collect video footage are limited to inspection. With machine vision, enhanced sensors, and grabbing arms and probes, drones may be able to fix minor faults in wind turbines, clear away overgrown foliage, and defend assets from intruders. Advances in 3-D vision and computational photography, cheaper communications networks, and lightweight batteries all promise to produce a drone that can fly for longer, act independently, and replace dangerous or boring human labour.

Bloomberg NEF’s research also finds that in-house drones are cheaper for inspection than third-party drone inspection as a service. Although in-house drone inspection requires upfront costs in training pilots and buying the drones themselves, it has better economics than using a third-party service.

Then there’s the world of oil and gas. Drones with potent “sniffers” can detect methane leaks coming from oil and gas pipelines at 1,000 times the accuracy of traditional methods, saving pipeline owners significant money that is lost from leaked product and potentially from fines. Even this relatively simple application could have significant business (and pollution and climate) implications, as there is an enormous range of reported values of actual emissions in the oil and gas supply chain.


Sources: Bloomberg NEF, EPA, Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Note: Errors are from a 90 percent confidence interval, calculated in a methane emissions literature review.

Not everything is immediately up and up for industrial drones. Regulation in most countries demands that drone pilots stay within line of sight of drones, while heavy batteries limit their flight time to 20 minutes. The market is fragmented, with a variety of startups offering complex services and overlapping solutions. Those conditions, though, can and probably will change. Technology improves, and regulations evolve. That buzzing rotor sound overhead is economics. It’s also business.


Tags: Power Plant, Drone Inspection, Drone Photography, Asset Inspection



01/10/2018

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Even before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) eased restrictions on commercial drone use in August 2016, real estate was one of the sectors that most enthusiastically adopted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to BI Intelligence, only photography uses more drones than real estate.

Numerous benefits drive the use of drones in the industry. Aerial photography and video are a powerful tool, especially in commercial real estate. Drones make obtaining this content substantially more feasible. It easily surpasses satellite imagery regarding quality, and is much more affordable than using a manned plane or helicopter to capture imagery from above.

Now that it’s easier than ever to use drones thanks to technological advancements, improved affordability and increasingly accommodating regulations, the benefits for the commercial real estate sector are even more apparent. Here are some of their most prominent applications.

Site Selection and Marketing

UAVs can take fantastic aerial pictures and videos of properties and the areas surrounding them. This footage can make powerful marketing content, as it gives potential clients or tenants the ability to easily learn about a location in an exciting and appealing format. There’s nothing like an aerial view to really make a property stand out.

This capability is also useful for site selection. Aerial photography and video provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of a location. You can also get information that may otherwise be difficult to find, such as how traffic typically flows in and out of the area.

While you will most likely want to visit a site in person before making a final decision, having extensive aerial footage of site options can help eliminate those that don’t fit your needs. Reducing the number of places you need to visit in person will help streamline the site selection process and thereby reduce costs associated with it.

Finding and signing a new commercial lease is typically a long and prohibitive process. The process can take at least 6 months for small companies and up to 3 years for larger businesses. Removing any amount of time from that period speeds progress toward relocation and increased growth — so businesses will appreciate the efficiency that drones bring to the leasing process.

Inspections

Drones can also play a role in commercial real estate inspections, including comprehensive baseline work and routine checks over the life of a property.

In addition to photography and videography equipment, you can equip UAVs with a wide range of sensors. For instance, thermal sensors affixed to drones can measure whether hot or cool air is escaping from a building, enabling you to improve its heating and cooling efficiency. This thermal testing equipment can also help in detecting damaged building infrastructure and water pooling under a flat roof.

Using a drone to perform inspections has numerous benefits. UAVs can conduct examinations much more quickly than a human could, as all it needs to do is fly over the building with the necessary sensors. Using a UAV also eliminates the danger of having an inspector climb onto the roof of a building.

roof

Drones can also assist with regular inspections required to maintain a property. Using a UAV makes it much easier and safer to inspect rooftop equipment, high windows and more.

You can use drones to check for damage after a storm or other natural event. These conditions can be especially hazardous for inspectors to carry out, making an unmanned inspection a smart choice.

Using drones for inspection may increase the frequency with which they’re performed because it reduces the time it takes to complete them and is more cost-effective. This may lead to safer properties and less risk for property owners.

Combining UAVs with other advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, may make them even more useful. Machine learning programs can look through the imagery provided by drones and help identify anomalies that may require a closer look. This can greatly improve the overall safety of a commercial property and potentially lengthen its lifespan.

Challenges

Drone usage is becoming more common, but the technology is still new enough that regulations have not entirely caught up with it. Federal, state and local rules do not always align. These disconnects can present a challenge to real estate professionals looking to use UAVs.

If you do plan to use drones, make sure you research and carefully follow all relevant laws. As a commercial user, you’ll need to pass a test from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and receive certification. As you fly your drone, be sure to follow all FAA rules and respect others’ privacy. If you do these things, you should be able to stay out of trouble.

Insurance companies also sometimes don’t cover commercial drones, leaving their owners to foot the bill if their’s crashes or is otherwise involved in an incident. As drones become increasingly popular, more insurance companies may start covering them. Real estate companies can also get insurance coverage specifically for their drones from companies such as Unmanned Risk Management.

Benefits of Drones in Commercial Real Estate

Drones are a relatively new, but increasingly popular, technology in the commercial sector. Commercial real estate is one area in which UAVs can have several substantial benefits.

Drones can survey potential sites and conduct inspections quickly, increasing the efficiency of site selection, inspections, regular maintenance and more.

They can also reduce risks by ensuring all parties have more comprehensive information about a property through more thorough inspections. They can even make conducting inspections themselves safer, as they eliminate or reduce the need for someone to climb up onto roofs and other tall structures to perform them.

Most of the drones a real estate professional would typically use are also easy to operate. You need to study and follow FAA rules, but flying the drones requires very little training. They are also becoming increasingly affordable, making them a cost-effective option for more companies.

Real estate was one of the foremost early adopters of commercial drones, and it seems the sector will continue to use them for a variety of applications. They provide many benefits related to commercial real estate decisions, including reducing inefficiency and risk. If you’re investing in commercial real estate or are otherwise involved in the sector, you should definitely consider investing in a drone.


Tags: Aerial Photography, Real Estate, Commercial Estate, Inspection, Drones



01/10/2018

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Rocketmine, a subsidiary of the international Delta Drone Group, continues to affirm its’ position as the drone service providing leader in UAV (drone) solutions for the mining sector.

The company recently announced that it has procured contracts with mining giants throughout Africa. One of those contracts includes a renewal with South Africa’s coal manufacturer, Exxaro Resources Group.

The contract will see Rocketmine providing survey and mapping solutions to the Grootegeluk site in the Limpopo Province. This forms part of their plan to evolve towards the ‘digitised mine of the future’ concept where real-time mine planning and execution can be conducted to improve mining efficiency and production.

Grootegeluk mine is Exxaro’s largest opencast mine in the southern hemisphere. This particular site inhabits various hazards and dangers to the surveyors. The survey and mapping solution was aimed to get surveyors out of dangerous areas to increase safety and data turnaround time.

The drone company said, one of Exxaro’s primary driving force in optimising efficiency of their operations was to meet the demand requirements of the Medupi power station.

Christopher Clark, MD, Rocketmine, explained,  “Our professional service and accurate data have been our greatest advocates. While safety and our cost-effective approaches contribute to a more streamlined and productive output on-site assisting the client achieve their targets.”

The second contract acquisition will see Rocketmine taking to the skies in Namibia, with Rio Tinto’s first commercial uranium mine, Rössing Uranium.

The mine, which supplied a total of 132 610 tonnes of the best possible uranium oxide to the world by the end of 2017, achieved this by optimising the accuracy of planning.

This, according to Clark required regular and accurate stockpile movements.

“The integration of drone technology at Rössing Uranium Mine will enhance operational efficiencies pertaining to planning by providing expeditious accurate data,” said Clark.

Rocketmine secured two other contracts in West Africa. Newcrest Mining Limited in Côte d’Ivoire and Newmont Akyem to provide mine blast monitoring and fragmentation analysis and survey mapping respectively.

“A global cumulate amount for these African projects over the next three years equates close to €1 000 000. These mines are clear cases that the future of the mining will utilise technology not only to find innovative solutions but to decrease their carbon footprint,” concluded Clark.


Tags: Mining, Stockpile, Drones, UAV, Drone Photography



25/09/2018

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This season, third-party trials conducted by growers and in collaboration with Aker are tracking plant health and yield results for Delaro®, a new corn and soybean fungicide from Bayer. As the season progresses, comparison images show the positive plant health benefits Delaro has on crops.

After applying fungicide, Aker uses high-resolution drones to capture multiple images of the fields. The results give growers a map, with red areas indicating less healthy plants and green representing healthy plants. The trials will also track yield comparisons.

“Monitoring a crop in a season can help pinpoint if plants are under stress from things like disease,” said Todd Golly, co-founder of Aker. “Using aerial imagery helps growers understand how to better optimize inputs, which can increase yield and profitability. It helps growers be more productive in the field.”

Delaro provides broad-spectrum residual activity from dual modes of action, giving growers disease protection from day one through the end of the spray interval. This allows for consistent performance and better yields. It also improves plant health, allowing corn and soybeans to better handle stress.

“Trials in 2017 found that Delaro provided a substantial yield increase over the untreated check in corn and soybeans,” said Ray Lello, fungicides product manager at Bayer. “However, we also consistently heard from trial participants that they observed improved plant health from Delaro. That’s why we are thrilled to collaborate with Aker to track qualitative metrics like plant health in addition to the known quantitative yield results of Delaro over the untreated check in corn and soybeans. Understanding how these benefits help contribute to an overall return on investment is beneficial for growers as they look to get the most out of their corn hybrids and soybean varieties.”

Delaro was first available for the 2018 growing season. Before its release, across two years of trials, Delaro averaged a 12-18 bushel per acre increase in corn and a 4-5 bushel per acre increase in soybeans compared to untreated checks. In these trials, Delaro had a 90 per cent win rate over the untreated checks.

Aker is an in-season crop monitoring and autonomous scouting solution for farming globally. Aker enables proactive observation and directed scouting to alert of adverse environmental conditions impacting crop health and yield.


Tags: Aerial Photography, Agriculture, Drones, Fungicide, Farming



25/09/2018

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HBO has premiered the second season of its technology documentary series HBO Image Study at IBC with an in depth cinematic examination of the capabilities and limitations of the latest drone technology.

The short film puts a number of high end cinema drones from companies such DJI through their paces and compares their performance with a helicopter.

Exhibited as part of IBC’s Big Screen programme, the film features HBO SVP Media and Production Operations Steve Beres and director and cinematographer Suny Behar conducting speed trials on various drones, comparing their manoeuvrability and the limits of RF control and GPS steering on various tracking shots.

HBO SVP Post Gena Desclos said: “Drone photography is important at HBO right now because there are so many people making fantastic quality content. Everybody is shooting on the same kind of cameras and lenses. But at HBO we try to offer a different perspective, and that’s where drones are great – putting a camera in a place where nothing else can reach.”

Suny Behar added: “Drones can achieve things where helicopters struggle – even the smaller drones now are capable of carrying cameras shooting RAW so you can get fantastic looking panoramic shots. You can also use them to get a quick up and down shot which would take half a day to set up using a crane.”

Steve Beres added: “Directors do put drone shots in to be hot. Creative people want to use the newest tech but it’s important to remember that there’s a lot to it. It’s about matching the talent to the task. We weren’t able to use them as much as we wanted on Game of Thrones when we factored in Irish weather. You have to ask yourself will this work in deep mud when its raining sideways?”

Desclos added: “It’s important for producers to realise that you need a full camera crew and you have got to really rehearse drone shots. It takes a lot of technology and organisation. It’s not a quick fix.”

During the trial Beres and Behar discovered that drones have limitations when used on tightly controlled tracking shots such as flying in front of a car. These shots are probably best achieved with a Russian arm camera mount system, said Beres. “We found the GPS steering isn’t accurate enough. The only way to do it is manually with GPS tracking turned off, which means that you have to have a really good pilot.”

They also discovered that RF signal interference in some locations can present camera control problems.


Tags: Drone Photography, Drone Cinematography, Television, HBO, Drone Technology



21/09/2018

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One of Australia's most endangered birds, the swift parrot, is being tracked by drones in the NSW Riverina, in a bid to better protect the remaining parrots and help ensure the species' survival.

"The swift parrot is in dire straits with numbers having declined below a thousand pairs," Wildlife Drones researcher, Debbie Saunders said.

Following winter they return to Tasmania where they breed from September to January, nesting in old trees with hollows and feeding in forests dominated by Tasmanian blue gum.

"In order for us to have any chance of reversing that decline, we need more information on their movements, so we can better protect them."

Dr Saunders said future prospects for the species were grim, but for the first time drones have been used successfully to radio-track multiple birds at the same time with the results seen live on a base station.

"Over the past month a large flock of about 60 swift parrots have been gorging on the nectar of winter flowering white box and mugga ironbark forests in the Tarcutta area and we've been keeping track of their movements for Riverina Local Land Services," she said.

"They are dependent on very small patches of habitat on farmland for their survival."

Swift parrot fledglings

PHOTO: It's estimated there are only 1,000 breeding pairs of swift parrots left in Australia. (ABC News: Fiona Blackwood)

Dr Saunders, a researcher at the Australian National University on the recovery team for the critically endangered swift parrot, said the reason the drone was developed was to track this particular species.

She said the drones could pick up signals from small radio transmitters attached to a number of birds and search large areas more rapidly.

"Drones are being used because these birds are renowned for their fast flight and their ability to move across vast landscapes, making them difficult to track using traditional hand held antennas," she said.

A map showing where swift parrots breed in Tasmania, then migrate to New South Wales
 

INFOGRAPHIC: Swift parrots breed in Tasmania before flying to Tarcutta Hills in NSW. (Supplied: Bush Heritage Australia)

Drones technology a game changer

Dr Saunders said drone technology was a huge help in efforts to save threatened species globally.

"Until now the tracking of wildlife has relied on researchers walking for hours on end with their arm in the air searching for the signal of one animal at a time before moving onto the next animal tag," she said.

"Wherever you can launch a drone, you can create a high point and maximise the chances of picking up that signal and search big areas very quickly.

"We have discovered that even though they are capable of long distance flights during the winter they are dependent on very small patches of habitat on farmland for their survival.

"This means that the loss of even a small bit of habitat can have huge impact on the species' survival."

Allie Hendy from Riverina Local Land Services said it was because of this that landholders could receive funding to protect and restore swift parrot habitat.

"A joint ANU and NSW Environment Trust project provides funding that will enable landholders to do this," she said.

Bush Heritage field officer Kim Burnet, who has been helping with the research, said it was great to see parrot numbers regenerate.

"It's been amazing standing in the old growth forest on the Bush Heritage Australia's Tarcutta Hills reserve as the swift parrots swoop and weave through the treetops all around us," she said.

Dr Saunders said the birds flocked to the big white box woodland in the Tarcutta valley.

"It's very, very rare to have that intact woodland on the whole of the south-west slopes, it's an incredibly endangered community in its own right," she said.

"So, you have this critically endangered bird relying on this endangered ecological community, they both really need each other."

Dr Saunders said swift parrots flew from Tasmania, where they breed, into Victoria, the NSW Riverina, and as far as the NSW Central Coast to feed — and on the coast they relied on trees in the suburbs to survive.

"The only habitat that really remains is in the suburbs, because the habitat there has been developed for housing and recreation reserves and the like," she said.

"So those big old trees in the suburbs really can be quite critical for endangered species, that's what they're reliant on."

A woman operates a drone in a field

PHOTO: Drone technology has had a big impact on tracking threatened species globally. (Supplied: Wildlife Drones)

Swift parrots' habitat as they travel is critical

Dr Saunders has been researching swift parrots for more than 20 years and said the species' situation had not improved in this time.

"They're far from secure. In fact they are on a downward trajectory, but with the species' ability — they're a bit like a great Aussie battler if you like — they're incredibly resilient," she said.

"They will make the most of what they can find if they have the capacity to move, but if the patches of habitat are too far apart or there's just not enough nesting hollows without predators in them, it can just tip them over the edge."

She said there was funding in New South Wales to help farmers take action to protect habitat, but she called on the Tasmanian Government to lift funding for the critically endangered species.

"It also needs action in Tasmania where the birds are breeding and the issues in Tasmania are ongoing and they're significant in relation to forestry as well as predation by introduced predators," Dr Saunders said.

"For a migratory species it's critical that action is taken throughout their range."


Tags: Aerial Photography, Drones, Conservation, Environmental



21/09/2018

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