One of the major challenges encountered bynatural resource management agencies is the lack of information on the occupancy, distribution and population trends of species of concern, many of which are cryptic, small bodied, and idiosyncratic in habitat selection over large extents of remote areas. And yet these same species are the most threatened due to the rapidly changing environmental conditions they are facing across space and time. At the same time, there is an equally urgent need to obtain information on feral and pest species that are contributing to the threat to native wildlife.

Conventional monitoring of small mammal species typically involves the use of VHF radio collaring and telemetry. The current application of VHF tracking systems is time consuming, labour intensive and expensive due to the manpower needs of covering extensive, remote and inaccessible terrains. Additionally, low animal recapture rate often necessitates repeated surveys, further compounding the data limitation problem and high research costs. Although GPS collars are available, they are typically not suitable for small wildlife species due to their size and weight, short lifespan, and limited signal penetration power.


In this project (, we seek to combine VHF telemetry, tracking technologies and inexpensive drone platforms to develop an integrated wildlife intelligence and monitoring system that is low cost, user friendly and easily deployable.

This research is a collaboration between the Auto-ID Lab and URAF at the University of Adelaide. The project is supported by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).

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  • Very useful feedback guys. Onwards!

  • Some familiar faces contributing here! 

    Congratulations to LPK and also to your colleagues. I've been contributing to a project using similar technologies for some time too. Adoption of SDR techniques on a UAV seemed to be a sensible step forward after my early trials using a conventional VHF receiver. 

    Having spent a large amount of time listening to white noise interspersed with the occasional VHF tone, I'm keen to learn about the next generation of technologies too.


  • Moderator

    I'm looking at some LoRa modules on my desk right now ;-) So much cool stuff out there and not enough time for it all.

  • Moderator

    We have moved away from VHF trackers in favour of UHF with GPS, its just easier. We track fish through to rhino I hear your concerns about size and weight though.

    Really we need a standard protocol for all wildlife worldwide, then any sensor network setup to hear the collars would feed data for other projects. A distributed receiver network. Something even wildlife enthusiasts could use with an SDR stick at home. Of course protected species could not be part of this but migrating birds larger rodents etc etc.

    We use RSSI for VHF collars now measured from moving vehicles it works quite well and gets rid of the beam swinging. A downside of pingers is they only give location data, our collars have accelerometers and thermometers so along with position we can log activity and trigger alarms based on conditions. Trouble is these things are expensive and less are in service so less data is being gathered. Trying to drive the price down all the time.

    The biggest problem we face is researchers damaging base stations driving them about and expecting them to survive in the back of a truck in the bush. Just yesterday my colleague had to drive 4 hours to fix ripped out antennas and poorly placed base stations. This to receive data from wild dogs so important. Misuse of the equipment contributes to cost though.

    We often get calls from researchers that have imported collars from overseas and not followed the instructions and promptly lost the animals and expensive collars. One person emailed me and said they had lost the collar for some cats 18 months before, could I come find them!

    We are passionate in our corner of Africa about big data and conservation, its going to make a difference.

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