Special Issue "Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management"

A special issue of Drones (ISSN 2504-446X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Paul Butcher
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Fisheries, Coffs Harbour 2450, Australia
Interests: drone; human management; wildlife management
Mr. Andrew Colefax
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Sci-eye, PO Box 4202, Goonellabah, NSW 2480, Australia
Interests: human-wildlife conflict; animal behavior; drones; wildlife tracking

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are now an affordable and technologically adept tool for wildlife and human management. The capacity of these vehicles and their associated sensors makes them the ultimate tool to obtain data to answer questions that have previously been unreachable via traditional methods of data collection. This technology is advancing quickly, with drones now being regularly used as a tool to collect additional temporal and spatial data to feed into existing (and new) scientific and management programs. To make full use of that increased knowledge, these additional data sources need to be disseminated to the community so that managers, scientists and other end users can benefit from such knowledge.

This Special Issue aims at showcasing the range of projects where drones have been used for wildlife and human management. This Special Edition will welcome manuscripts in the fields of:

  • Drones for monitoring or understanding terrestrial and aquatic wildlife;
  • Drones for human management;
  • Drones to minimise human/wildlife conflict;
  • Drones to monitor threatened, endangered or protected species.

We look forward to your submission.

Dr. Paul Butcher
Mr. Andrew Colefax
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Drones is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • beach safety
  • drone
  • human management
  • unmanned aerial vehicle
  • wildlife management

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Article
Quantifying Waterfowl Numbers: Comparison of Drone and Ground-Based Survey Methods for Surveying Waterfowl on Artificial Waterbodies
Drones 2021, 5(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010005 - 13 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1427
Abstract
Drones are becoming a common method for surveying wildlife as they offer an aerial perspective of the landscape. For waterbirds in particular, drones can overcome challenges associated with surveying locations not accessible on foot. With the rapid uptake of drone technology for bird [...] Read more.
Drones are becoming a common method for surveying wildlife as they offer an aerial perspective of the landscape. For waterbirds in particular, drones can overcome challenges associated with surveying locations not accessible on foot. With the rapid uptake of drone technology for bird surveys, there is a need to compare and calibrate new technologies with existing survey methods. We compared waterfowl counts derived from ground- and drone-based survey methods. We sought to determine if group size and waterbody size influenced the difference between counts of non-nesting waterfowl and if detection of species varied between survey methods. Surveys of waterfowl were carried out at constructed irrigation dams and wastewater treatment ponds throughout the Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Data were analyzed using Bayesian multilevel models (BMLM) with weakly informative priors. Overall, drone-derived counts of waterfowl were greater (+36%) than ground counts using a spotting scope (β_ground= 0.64 [0.62–0.66], (R2 = 0.973)). Ground counts also tended to underestimate the size of groups. Waterbody size had an effect on comparative counts, with ground counts being proportionally less than drone counts (mean = 0.74). The number of species identified in each waterbody type was similar regardless of survey method. Drone-derived counts are more accurate compared to traditional ground counts, but drones do have some drawbacks including initial equipment costs and time-consuming image or photo processing. Future surveys should consider using drones for more accurately surveying waterbirds, especially when large groups of birds are present on larger waterbodies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Article
Volitional Swimming Kinematics of Blacktip Sharks, Carcharhinus limbatus, in the Wild
Drones 2020, 4(4), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4040078 - 18 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1455
Abstract
Recent work showed that two species of hammerhead sharks operated as a double oscillating system, where frequency and amplitude differed in the anterior and posterior parts of the body. We hypothesized that a double oscillating system would be present in a large, volitionally [...] Read more.
Recent work showed that two species of hammerhead sharks operated as a double oscillating system, where frequency and amplitude differed in the anterior and posterior parts of the body. We hypothesized that a double oscillating system would be present in a large, volitionally swimming, conventionally shaped carcharhinid shark. Swimming kinematics analyses provide quantification to mechanistically examine swimming within and among species. Here, we quantify blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) volitional swimming kinematics under natural conditions to assess variation between anterior and posterior body regions and demonstrate the presence of a double oscillating system. We captured footage of 80 individual blacktips swimming in the wild using a DJI Phantom 4 Pro aerial drone. The widespread accessibility of aerial drone technology has allowed for greater observation of wild marine megafauna. We used Loggerpro motion tracking software to track five anatomical landmarks frame by frame to calculate tailbeat frequency, tailbeat amplitude, speed, and anterior/posterior variables: amplitude and frequency of the head and tail, and the body curvature measured as anterior and posterior flexion. We found significant increases in tailbeat frequency and amplitude with increasing swimming speed. Tailbeat frequency decreased and tailbeat amplitude increased as posterior flexion amplitude increased. We found significant differences between anterior and posterior amplitudes and frequencies, suggesting a double oscillating modality of wave propagation. These data support previous work that hypothesized the importance of a double oscillating system for increased sensory perception. These methods demonstrate the utility of quantifying swimming kinematics of wild animals through direct observation, with the potential to apply a biomechanical perspective to movement ecology paradigms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Article
Elasmobranch Use of Nearshore Estuarine Habitats Responds to Fine-Scale, Intra-Seasonal Environmental Variation: Observing Coastal Shark Density in a Temperate Estuary Utilizing Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Drones 2020, 4(4), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4040074 - 08 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1402
Abstract
Many coastal shark species are known to use estuaries of the coastal southeastern United States for essential purposes like foraging, reproducing, and protection from predation. Temperate estuarine landscapes, such as the Rachel Carson Reserve (RCR) in Beaufort, NC, are dynamic habitat mosaics that [...] Read more.
Many coastal shark species are known to use estuaries of the coastal southeastern United States for essential purposes like foraging, reproducing, and protection from predation. Temperate estuarine landscapes, such as the Rachel Carson Reserve (RCR) in Beaufort, NC, are dynamic habitat mosaics that experience fluctuations in physical and chemical oceanographic properties on various temporal and spatial scales. These patterns in abiotic conditions play an important role in determining species movement. The goal of this study was to understand the impact of environmental conditions around the RCR on shark density within the high-abundance summer season. Unoccupied Aircraft System (UAS) surveys of coastal habitats within the reserve were used to quantify shark density across varying environmental conditions. A combination of correlation analyses and Generalized Linear Modelling (GLM) revealed that density differs substantially across study sites and increases with rising water temperatures, conclusions that are supported by previous work in similar habitats. Additionally, density appears to increase moving towards dawn and dusk, potentially supporting crepuscular activity in coastal estuarine areas. By describing shark density dynamics in the RCR, this study provides new information on this population and presents a novel framework for studying elasmobranchs in temperate estuaries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Article
Sharkeye: Real-Time Autonomous Personal Shark Alerting via Aerial Surveillance
Drones 2020, 4(2), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4020018 - 04 May 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2516
Abstract
While aerial shark spotting has been a standard practice for beach safety for decades, new technologies offer enhanced opportunities, ranging from drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that provide new viewing capabilities, to new apps that provide beachgoers with up-to-date risk analysis before entering the [...] Read more.
While aerial shark spotting has been a standard practice for beach safety for decades, new technologies offer enhanced opportunities, ranging from drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that provide new viewing capabilities, to new apps that provide beachgoers with up-to-date risk analysis before entering the water. This report describes the Sharkeye platform, a first-of-its-kind project to demonstrate personal shark alerting for beachgoers in the water and on land, leveraging innovative UAV image collection, cloud-hosted machine learning detection algorithms, and reporting via smart wearables. To execute, our team developed a novel detection algorithm trained via machine learning based on aerial footage of real sharks and rays collected at local beaches, hosted and deployed the algorithm in the cloud, and integrated push alerts to beachgoers in the water via a shark app to run on smartwatches. The project was successfully trialed in the field in Kiama, Australia, with over 350 detection events recorded, followed by the alerting of multiple smartwatches simultaneously both on land and in the water, and with analysis capable of detecting shark analogues, rays, and surfers in average beach conditions, and all based on ~1 h of training data in total. Additional demonstrations showed potential of the system to enable lifeguard-swimmer communication, and the ability to create a network on demand to enable the platform. Our system was developed to provide swimmers and surfers with immediate information via smart apps, empowering lifeguards/lifesavers and beachgoers to prevent unwanted encounters with wildlife before it happens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Review

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Review
Going Batty: The Challenges and Opportunities of Using Drones to Monitor the Behaviour and Habitat Use of Rays
Drones 2021, 5(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010012 - 02 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2303
Abstract
The way an animal behaves in its habitat provides insight into its ecological role. As such, collecting robust, accurate datasets in a time-efficient manner is an ever-present pressure for the field of behavioural ecology. Faced with the shortcomings and physical limitations of traditional [...] Read more.
The way an animal behaves in its habitat provides insight into its ecological role. As such, collecting robust, accurate datasets in a time-efficient manner is an ever-present pressure for the field of behavioural ecology. Faced with the shortcomings and physical limitations of traditional ground-based data collection techniques, particularly in marine studies, drones offer a low-cost and efficient approach for collecting data in a range of coastal environments. Despite drones being widely used to monitor a range of marine animals, they currently remain underutilised in ray research. The innovative application of drones in environmental and ecological studies has presented novel opportunities in animal observation and habitat assessment, although this emerging field faces substantial challenges. As we consider the possibility to monitor rays using drones, we face challenges related to local aviation regulations, the weather and environment, as well as sensor and platform limitations. Promising solutions continue to be developed, however, growing the potential for drone-based monitoring of behaviour and habitat use of rays. While the barriers to enter this field may appear daunting for researchers with little experience with drones, the technology is becoming increasingly accessible, helping ray researchers obtain a wide range of highly useful data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Review
The Drone Revolution of Shark Science: A Review
Drones 2021, 5(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones5010008 - 21 Jan 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4626
Abstract
Over the past decade, drones have become a popular tool for wildlife management and research. Drones have shown significant value for animals that were often difficult or dangerous to study using traditional survey methods. In the past five years drone technology has become [...] Read more.
Over the past decade, drones have become a popular tool for wildlife management and research. Drones have shown significant value for animals that were often difficult or dangerous to study using traditional survey methods. In the past five years drone technology has become commonplace for shark research with their use above, and more recently, below the water helping to minimise knowledge gaps about these cryptic species. Drones have enhanced our understanding of shark behaviour and are critically important tools, not only due to the importance and conservation of the animals in the ecosystem, but to also help minimise dangerous encounters with humans. To provide some guidance for their future use in relation to sharks, this review provides an overview of how drones are currently used with critical context for shark monitoring. We show how drones have been used to fill knowledge gaps around fundamental shark behaviours or movements, social interactions, and predation across multiple species and scenarios. We further detail the advancement in technology across sensors, automation, and artificial intelligence that are improving our abilities in data collection and analysis and opening opportunities for shark-related beach safety. An investigation of the shark-based research potential for underwater drones (ROV/AUV) is also provided. Finally, this review provides baseline observations that have been pioneered for shark research and recommendations for how drones might be used to enhance our knowledge in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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Review
Operational Protocols for the Use of Drones in Marine Animal Research
Drones 2020, 4(4), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4040064 - 25 Sep 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 5397
Abstract
The use of drones to study marine animals shows promise for the examination of numerous aspects of their ecology, behaviour, health and movement patterns. However, the responses of some marine phyla to the presence of drones varies broadly, as do the general operational [...] Read more.
The use of drones to study marine animals shows promise for the examination of numerous aspects of their ecology, behaviour, health and movement patterns. However, the responses of some marine phyla to the presence of drones varies broadly, as do the general operational protocols used to study them. Inconsistent methodological approaches could lead to difficulties comparing studies and can call into question the repeatability of research. This review draws on current literature and researchers with a wealth of practical experience to outline the idiosyncrasies of studying various marine taxa with drones. We also outline current best practice for drone operation in marine environments based on the literature and our practical experience in the field. The protocols outlined herein will be of use to researchers interested in incorporating drones as a tool into their research on marine animals and will help form consistent approaches for drone-based studies in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drone Technology for Wildlife and Human Management)
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