New guide on using drones for conservation

November 20, 2020

Drones are a powerful tool for conservation - but they should only be used after careful consideration and planning, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the global conservation organisation WWF, outlines "best practices" for using drones effectively and safely, while minimising impacts on wildlife. This is the 5th issue in a series on Conservation Technologies and Methodologies.

The lead authors are Dr Karen Anderson and Dr James Duffy, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter.

"This is a detailed handbook for conservation practitioners - not just academics - to understand the benefits, opportunities, limits and pitfalls of drone technology," Dr Anderson said.

"Drones are often hailed as a panacea for conservation problems, but in this guide we explain - with reference to detailed case studies by conservation managers and scientists - how and where drones can be used to deliver useful information, and what the key considerations surrounding their use can be."

Dr Karen Anderson leads the University of Exeter's DroneLab, and the research done within her group has developed and guided drone methodologies within geography, ecology and environmental science.

The WWF worked with the Exeter team to produce this report, after being introduced to their DroneLab for a hands-on training a few years ago.

Co-author Aurélie Shapiro is a Senior Remote Sensing Specialist from WWF Germany's Space+Science group. She said: "I bought a drone online, like many people because we had a lot of applications for this accessible technology.

"Through the DroneLab I realised I had a lot of homework to do with regards to ensuring safety both for humans and wildlife in my research.

"Instructions on how to plan, what to consider - among a myriad of technological options - are priceless.

"It was clear we needed to communicate this wealth of information to the growing drone community so that scientists lead by example with good protocols."

The report includes examples of practical case studies from conservationists and environmental scientists and includes a list of drone "best practices":

University of Exeter

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