Researchers use thermal drones to count flying foxes
Researchers from Western Sydney University and the Taronga Conservation Society have teamed up to develop a new method of counting flying foxes with the help of thermal drones. A paper that was recently published in the journal Remote Sensing In Ecology and Conservation explains the new approach.
The accuracy of counting flying foxes, officially known as Pteropus poliocephalus, has been verified by traditional, repeated ground counts performed by multiple humans.
As part of the new counting method, the researchers also use advanced image detection techniques, including machine learning and computer vision methods to semi-automate flying-fox counts from the drone-acquired imagery, reports IT Wire.
“We can now use drones to obtain accurate and precise measures of colony abundance semi-automatically, thus greatly reducing the amount of human effort involved for obtaining abundance estimates”, said lead author and Master of Research graduate Eliane McCarthy at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. “At present, there are two main methods for getting accurate counts of a flying-fox colony: during the day, when the flying-foxes are roosting and therefore quite static, or during the evening when they leave the roost to forage on nectar and fruit and can be counted as they depart the roost.”
“However, there are several issues in conducting ground surveys: the terrain can be difficult and physically challenging for counting personnel and their presence can disturb rooting flying-foxes, reducing the accuracy of the estimate,” Co-author Dr. John Martin, a research scientist at Taronga, said. “Fly-out counts rely on rapidly counting fast-moving animals at dusk when the light is fading, complicating these assessments.”
Co-author, Associate Professor Matthias Boer, said: “We demonstrated that drone-acquired thermal imagery can be used to accurately and precisely quantify the abundance of flying-foxes in a roost, and that semi-automated methods for counting flying-foxes in thermal imagery are comparable to human assessments in their accuracy.”
The remaining author, Associate Professor Justin Welbergen, added: “This method is very valuable for reliably monitoring the abundance of individuals in flying-fox roosts and will aid in the conservation and management of this globally threatened group of flying-mammals, as well as other warm-blooded tree-roosting species.”
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.
Stay in touch!
Subscribe to our Daily Drone News email.*
Submit tips If you have information or tips that you would like to share with us, feel free to submit them here. Support DroneXL.co: You can support DroneXL.co by using these links when you make your next drone purchase: Adorama, Amazon, B&H, BestBuy, eBay, DJI, Parrot, and Yuneec. We make a small commission when you do so at no additional expense to you. Thank you for helping DroneXL grow! FTC: DroneXL.co uses affiliate links that generate income.
* We do not sell, share, rent out or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.
Photo credit: Simon Berstecher