A Novel Scouring Method to Monitor Nocturnal Mammals Using Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles and Thermal Cameras—A Comparison to Line Transect Spotlight Counts

Peter Povlsen*, Dan Bruhn, Cino Pertoldi, Sussie Pagh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Wildlife abundance surveys are important tools for making decisions regarding nature conservation and management. Cryptic and nocturnal mammals can be difficult to monitor, and methods to obtain more accurate data on density and population trends of these species are needed. We propose a novel monitoring method using an aerial drone with a laser rangefinder and high zoom capabilities for thermal imagery. By manually operating the drone, the survey area can be initially scanned in a radius of several kilometers, and when a point of interest is observed, animals could be identified from up to one kilometer away by zooming in while the drone maintains an altitude of 120 m. With the laser rangefinder, a precise coordinate of the detected animal could be recorded instantly. Over ten surveys, the scouring drone method recorded significantly more hares than traditional transect spotlight count surveys, conducted by trained volunteers scanning the same farmland area within the same timeframe (p = 0.002, Wilcoxon paired rank test). The difference between the drone method and the transect spotlight method was hare density-dependent (R = 0.45, p = 0.19, Pearson’s product–moment correlation); the larger the density of hares, the larger the difference between the two methods to the benefit of the drone method. There was a linear relation between the records of deer by the drone and by spotlight (R = 0.69, p = 0.027), while no relation was found between the records of carnivores by drone and spotlight counts. This may be due to carnivores’ speed and vigilance or lack of data. Furthermore, the drone method could cover up to three times the area within the same timeframe as the transect spotlight counts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number661
JournalDrones
Volume7
Issue number11
ISSN2504-446X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Keywords

  • European brown hare
  • RPAS
  • UAS
  • UAV
  • aerial survey
  • animal behavior
  • conservation biology
  • drones
  • population ecology
  • thermal imagery
  • transect spotlight counts
  • uncrewed aerial vehicles
  • wildlife management
  • wildlife monitoring

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