WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flood Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Drones are helping scientists fight wildlife extinction

Drones may be a powerful tool for preserving endangered species.Researchers in Australia suggest that counting...

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 2:23 PM
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 2:23 PM

Drones may be a powerful tool for preserving endangered species.

Researchers in Australia suggest that counting wildlife using drones is more accurate than traditional methods, according to a paper published on Tuesday in the British Ecological Society journal "Methods in Ecology and Evolution."

Counting a species is crucial to conservation efforts.

"With so many animals across the world facing extinction, our need for accurate wildlife data has never been greater," said Jarrod Hodgson, lead author of the research paper and Ph.D candidate at the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences. "Accurate monitoring can detect small changes in animal numbers. That is important because if we had to wait for a big shift in those numbers to notice the decline, it might be too late to conserve a threatened species."

Related: New artificial intelligence system can tell if a sheep is in pain

Drones have previously been used to monitor different animals, such as elephants and nesting birds. But it was uncertain how accurate drones were for counting species, according to the researchers.

To test the method, the team created fake bird colonies on a beach in Adelaide, Australia, using 2,000 decoy ducks. They were modeled after Crested Tern seabirds.

Wildlife experts on the ground counted the fake birds with binoculars and telescopes, while a drone flew overhead and took pictures. Another group of scientists counted the number of birds they could see from the drone images.

"In a wild population, the true number of individuals is not known. This makes it very difficult to test the accuracy of a counting approach," Hodgson told CNN Tech. "We needed to test the technology where we knew the correct answer."

The researchers found that the drone approach was more precise than counting on the ground.

Because counting species in photographs is time intensive, the researchers also trained a computer algorithm to count the birds automatically. Those results were nearly as accurate as scientists reviewing the photos, according to the team.

Related: Scientists predict volcanic eruptions with satellites and GPS

The research paper was co-authored by scientists from the University of Adelaide, Australian Antarctic Division, University of Tasmania and Monash University.

Hodgson said the researchers are still learning about how wildlife reacts to the presence of drones.

"The results will help to refine and improve drone monitoring protocols so that drones have minimal to non-existent impact on wildlife," he said. "This is particularly important for species that are prone to disturbance and where traditional methods involving close proximity to species are not possible or desirable."

The researchers are planning a similar drone test to monitor different species of seals and to detect the nests or tracks of difficult-to-observe animals.

Drones aren't the only technology scientists are using to count wildlife populations.

Last year, a group of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand demonstrated that albatross birds can be seen and counted from space using high-resolution satellite imagery. Albatrosses, a type of big seabird, are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 91°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 91°
Oxford
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 88°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 96°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather