Until recently, the effective use of drones for conservation purposes has been limited largely by their range and high cost. But currently conservation drones have focused on gathering high resolution data to monitor the distribution of species in their habitats. In the US, a non-profit group called Conservation Drones is working with manufacturers to scale up production in attempts to make drones slightly more affordable for environmental groups and conservation scientists. The founding director of Conservation Drones, Lian Pin Koh, describes how drones are going to become a “game changer” that would “soon become a standard item in the toolbox.” With drone technology…”we are battling each day to bring military solutions to conservation’s thin green line,” he said.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, don’t offer just a safer way for scientists to observe their subjects; they’re often less costly, more efficient, and more precise than traditional approaches. Some of the drones biologists are using carry cameras and sensors to aid in a variety of conservation efforts. In the past few years they’ve started to provide an unprecedented look at places that would be traditionally very difficult to access, like orangutan nests in the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. These conservation drones have also shown potential for catching poachers and stopping illegal logging as well.
Although there is one major barrier that is slowing down the process of fully integrating drones into conservation purposes and that is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA’s rules currently make it very difficult and time-consuming to obtain permission to fly drones outside and in turn use them for conservation purposes. Would-be operators fill out around 20 pages in the application process. And once permission is given there are still regulations like not being able to fly in certain cities or specific other crowded places, which impedes on conservation efforts in the cities. Drone technology is still helping conservationists regardless and the benefits will hopefully be a prosperous, diverse natural world for future generations.
Norman, J. 2014. “Drones Striking a High-Tech Blow for Conservation and the Environment” The Guardian. Web. April 10 2016.