Game of Drones: Drones aid turtle research and conservations studios
Drones are changing the face of turtle research and conservation, a new study shows. By providing new ways to track turtles over large areas and in hard-to-reach locations, the drones have quickly become a key resource for scientists. The research, led by the University of Exeter , also says stunning drone footage can boost public interest and involvement in turtle conservation.
"Drones are increasingly being used to gather data in greater detail and across wider areas than ever before," said Dr Alan Rees, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter 's Penryn Campus in Cornwall . "Satellite systems and aircraft transformed turtle conservation, but drones offer cheaper and often better ways to gather information.”We are learning more about their behavior and movements at sea, and drones also give us new avenues for anti-poaching efforts."
The use of satellite systems and manned aircraft surveys for remote data collection has been shown to be transformative for sea turtle conservation and research by enabling the collection of data on turtles and their habitats over larger areas than can be achieved by surveys on foot or by boat. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones are increasingly being adopted to gather data, at previously unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions in diverse geographic locations. This easily accessible, low-cost tool is improving existing research methods and enabling novel approaches in marine turtle ecology and conservation. UAVs may reduce costs and field time while improving safety and data quality and quantity over existing methods for studies on turtle nesting, at-sea distribution and behavior surveys, as well as expanding into new avenues such as surveillance against illegal take. This technology does not come without challenges the potential constraints of these systems within the ethical and legal frameworks which researchers must operate and the difficulties that can result with regard to storage and analysis of large amounts of imagery and suggest areas where technological development could further expand the utility of UAVs as data-gathering tools; for example, functioning as downloading nodes for data collected by sensors placed on turtles. Development of methods for the use of UAVs in sea turtle research will serve as case studies for use with other marine and terrestrial species.