Conservation Drones for Seabird Monitoring


A research team led by Jarrod Hodgson and Rohan Clarke from Monash University is partnering with ConservationDrones to use UAVs for seabird monitoring. Jarrod and Rohan have just returned from a successful trip to remote islands in north-western Australia. They brought along a 3DRobotics X8 multirotor UAV which they used to capture very high resolution images of nesting seabirds on these islands.

After some preliminary testing, Jarrod and Rohan discovered that they could fly at an altitude of 75 m above ground level, without causing disturbance to the birds. They also found that flying at lower altitudes would work for large nesting species. But smaller non-nesting species were easily flushed from perching sites by the UAV flying at 40 m a.g.l.

The team from Monash University made a total of 9 successful flights with the UAV. They were targeting colonies of Crested Tern and Lesser Frigatebird. The Crested Tern colonies represent a medium-sized species that nests in dense colonies on the ground (see picture), whereas Lesser Frigatebirds are a large seabird which nests in smaller groups typically on elevated nest stacks and within vegetation.

For every successful survey, the team dispatched experienced seabird counters to make 1 – 2 blind counts of the surveyed population. They will be comparing these ‘ground counts’ with UAV aerial counts to assess the reliability of UAV data.

This is a fantastic demonstration of yet another application for conservation drones. The ConservationDrones team is excited to continue our collaborate with Jarrod and Rohan in several upcoming projects. Check out their new project site:!

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  • Developer

    Great application.  It's like guessing how many jellybeans in the jar.  I'm guessing 2700.

    Interesting to hear the hard data of 75m and that it matters about the species.

  • Yes we did and it seemed to work well in the field

  • Jarrod, did you buy the GPS module for your EOS M?

  • Thanks Keeyen.  That's right, we used a Canon EOS M which took fantastic images.  

  • 100KM
    Great application. By using the X8, I assume you may able to use mirror less or even SRL to get great images.
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