In a new paper with lead author Alan Rees and collegues we reviews how drones and other UAVs can be used in sea turtle research and conservation.
Here we review the diverse ways in which incorporating inexpensive 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 behaviour surveys, as well as expanding into new avenues such as surveillance against illegal take. Furthermore, we highlight the impact that high-quality aerial imagery captured by UAVs can have for public outreach and engagement.
Read the paper and watch the wonderful video-abstract (click on it for the full version):This technology does not come without challenges. We discuss 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. We then 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 taxa.
Rees AF, Avens L, Ballorain K, Bevan E, Broderick AC, Carthy R, Christianen MJA, Duclos G, Heithaus M, Johnston M, Mangel J, Paladino F, Pendoley K, Reina R, Robinson N, Sykora-Bodie S, Tilley D, Varela MR, Whitman E, Whittock P, Wibbels T, Godley BJ (2018) The potential of unpiloted aerial systems for sea turtle research and conservation. endangered species research. DOI: 10.3354/esr00877 Video