Course:CONS200/2021/How are drones helping conservation

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Instead of obtaining aerial imageries from manned aircraft, drones are more capable to avoid external or potential risks. The main goal in the design of conservation drones is to reduce cost, while avoiding the risks such as safety of the aircraft pilots. It was treated as a more efficient conservation tool by conservation scholars and managers in the last ten years, and there are several advantages of using drones for conservation agreed by relevant experts[1]. The first advantage, as illustrated ahead, there is no safety concern about the drone operators since drones are manipulated remotely so that the operators stay on the ground. Second, the relatively smaller scale allows it to be launched with less limit, that saves time and cost indirectly. In addition, the noise is less so that the negative effect on wildlife decreases. Last but not least, the cost is greatly reduced because of the lower technology requirement.

Specific contribution to conservation

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Detecting animals and anti-poaching:

Detecting animals helps to understand the animal distribution and density in a specific area, which is a significant aspect for conservation. As the more beneficial alternative, drones are used as a transport tool for sensors to do the data collection. Commonly, there are two different sensors for the animal detection, red green blue photo cameras are used during the day to collect animal data that can be observed, and thermal sensors are used at night when it is hard to distinguish animals from the surrounding environment[2]. Instead of being a survey tool, drones with those spectrum cameras also play a role of monitor or supervisor of the wildlife. As another remarkable issue against conservation, poaching happens commonly in wildlife areas. The popularity of drones promotes the poaching restriction more since the efficient characteristics that saves time and labor to do the monitoring work. Meanwhile, an increased number of camera devices that are fitted in drones have been developed to support the conservation drones.

Land-cover mapping:

Mapping is another common application driven by drones efficiently. Usually done by the georeferenced aerial photograph camera. The process and the amount of work depends on the scale of the map. One photograph could be done for relatively small-scale mapping. Generally, several overlapping aerial photographs are taken If a large-scale landscape mapping is required[2]. Rather than manually operating the aircraft carrying the camera, drones could be programmed to be fixed in some location to take those photos, collecting the data more effectively.

Negative effects on wildlife

While drones are used as an efficient tool for conservation, some negative effects on wildlife may be even increased due to the new technology. There are about 50 or even more species around the world physically bothered by drones, most of them are in airspace and terrestrial habitats[3]. The disturbance to animals often presents in birds and big cats. Drones are treated as predators or competitors among the species, and the animals usually make a series of stress responses such as escaping or attacking[3]. The presentation of drones may change the ecosystem as concerned. Furthermore, another reason is the convenience of the operation, which is exactly the point that is beyond the other devices. Due to the feature that can be controlled remotely, drones break through the limitations of space, and can reach any corner of the world. However, it increases the risk of the animal being disturbed in some habitat where the former devices rarely reached or even did not reach before. Furthermore, the popularity of drones is a potential risk to the wildlife as well since the frequency of drones use is increasing.

Attitudes and means that need to be taken

There are 81% American adult samples moderately to strongly support the use of drones for environment conservation even though the overall attitude towards drones is not as friendly as expected and most concerns to drones are about privacy and safety according to the recent public poll in the US[1]. Due to the ability of detecting living creatures, the conservation drones have more risk to be against. At the same time, the misuse of drones may have the opposite effect on wildlife conservation.  For the better and further development of drones, regulations and controls are necessary. The operators are supposed to be licensed to dispel the concerns of privacy purposes and animal disturbance. Therefore, public support could be ensured for drones and thus make a greater contribution to conservation through drones.


Drones in conservation will provide us with interesting insights into the future of conservation as we get to view how this nascent technology will change and impact this blossoming institution. After preliminary research we got a sense of just how much is set to change with only slight adoption and applications, drones have the potential to drastically reduce the resources required in the field, while at the same time providing the same or greater amounts of data to be analyzed[4]. Additionally, drones have the potential to minimize the impact researchers and conservationists have on the environment that they are attempting to study or conserve. Although one caveat to this emergent technology may be its public perception, as different narratives push this technology to be viewed in a certain light, one that might be viewed as threatening to privacy, with public opinion showing “moderate” support for conservation and “mixed” support in other fields[1]. With private sector or recreational use having the possibility of having a negative impact, as it creates a new zone for interactions and conflict between humans and the biosphere. Like all technologies the impacts of their application can range on a spectrum and we are only beginning to find out how this technology will shape conservation.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 MARKOWITZ, EZRA M.; NISBET, MATTHEW C.; DANYLCHUK, ANDY J.; SETH I., ENGELBOURG (April 2017). "What's That Buzzing Noise? Public Opinion on the Use of Drones for Conservation Science". OXFORD JOURNALS. 67: pp. 382-385.CS1 maint: extra text (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wich, Serge A.; Koh, Lian Pin (2018). Conservation Drones: Mapping and Monitoring Biodiversity. Oxford Scholarship Online. ISBN 9780198787617.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rebolo-Ifrán, Natalia; Grilli, Maricel Graña; Lambertucci, Sergio A (June 2019). "Drones as a Threat to Wildlife: YouTube Complements Science in Providing Evidence about Their Effect". Environmental Conservation. 46: pp. 205-210.CS1 maint: extra text (link)
  4. Calvo, Kike (May 17, 2017). "So You Want to Fly Drones for Conservation?". NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.