A Guide to Using Drones to Study Wildlife: First, Do No Harm
Technological developments have provided much welfare for environmental research. Sensors on southern elephant seals have been used to map the Southern Ocean, whereas tracking devices have given us a new view of mass animal migrations, from birds to zebras.
Reduction of electronics and improvements in reliability and affordability mean that consumer drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) are now refining scientific research in a number of areas. And they are becoming more popular for wildlife management, as well as research.
Wildlife drones can be used in many different ways, from small multi-rotor units that can scare invasive birds away from crops, to fixed-wing aircraft that fly above rainforests to spot orangutan nests. UAVs have also been shown to provide more precise data than traditional ground-based techniques when it comes to monitoring seabird colonies.
Other industries, from mining to window-cleaning, are looking at using drone technology. Some forecasts predict that the global market for commercial applications of UAVs will be valued at more than US$127 billion. Given their usefulness in the biologist’s toolkit, the uptake of UAVs for environmental monitoring is likely to continue.
Young Students aiming to preserve Wildlife
Born Free, in association with the British International Education Association (BIEA), has announced the shortlist for the 2019 BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition.
Since its launch in January 2019, the competition has received huge interest from schools and teachers from around the world – reaching 30,000 schools globally and drawing applications from 34 countries and regions.
After an intensive and rigorous marking process, 45 teams are through to the next round based on their qualification scores, representing 18 countries and regions including UK, China, USA, Australia, Canada, UAE，India, Kenya and many others.
Each year a theme connecting world issues and technology is chosen for the competition, and this year’s theme is ‘Fighting Extinction via Drone Technology’. Teams are asked to come up with a drone design to aid in the conservation of endangered species, and projects submitted in the first round focused on an enormous variety of endangered animals, including snow leopards, black rhinos, pangolins, turtles, elephants and many more.
The teams through the next round now have to modify/build a drone to reflect their report design ideas as laid down in the first round within a fixed budget. They are required to submit two videos to the judges – one to demonstrate their drone in action and able to complete a set of tasks, a second video to visually present an outline of their project to date.
Upon successful submission of the videos, teams are invited to come to the international final at the London Royal Air Force Museum on 4th July, with a public showcase of their projects and presenting to a panel of expert judges. A grand prize of £5,000 is waiting for the top team, a variety of other prizes across the age categories will be awarded to participating teams.
Laura Gosset, Head of Education, Born Free, concluded:
“Wildlife is coming under increasing threat from human actions so Born Free is thrilled to be partnering with BIEA on this competition. The submissions we have received so far have been outstanding and we are very excited to see the progress made by the finalists in the next round.
“This competition is about ensuring that the next generation understands the real-world application of STEM skills. Ultimately for us as a charity, how we can effectively use technology to protect and monitor wildlife populations could be the difference between extinction and survival for some of the world’s most threatened species.”
Another pride for the UAE Schools is that one of them have gone through the next round. The school from UAE who has gone through to the next round is GEMS International School, Al Khail. They entered in the age 15-17 category; their chosen animal for protection is Arabian Leopards and Below is the report prepared by them on their topic.
‘The Arabian leopard is a highly endangered species located in the Arabian peninsula. Currently, their population is decreasing and there are less than 300 Arabian leopards left in the world today. But if we are to find them, then they are commonly found in Palestine, south of Oman, by the sea, and are possibly located all around the perimeter of the red sea. The Arabian leopard tends to live in areas that have High mountains and deep wadis (valleys) with sufficient prey, permanent water, adequate cover, and freedom from persecution. According to “Yemeni-leopard” report, the leopards are proven to currently exist only in the Dhofar region in Oman, Hajjah and Al Mahrah governorates in Yemen, and the Judean Desert and Negev highlands of Palestine. According to the same source, the last recorded evidence of leopards in other countries in the peninsula has dated back to the early to the mid-20th century.’
For more information about the STEM Youth Innovation Competition and to view the complete list of shortlisted teams, visit www.bieacompetition.org.uk/announcementEmail This Post