Parrot patrol

A study has demonstrated the value of using autonomous drones for conservation purposes.

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Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)

Credit: Simon Bennett/BIA/Minden/Getty

Understanding the movements of animals can help to focus conservation efforts on key regions of habitat. A standard approach to tracking small animals is to tag them with a tiny radio transmitter and monitor the emitted signals using a hand-held device. But this can prove challenging when following highly mobile animals across difficult terrain.

Writing in Science Robotics, Cliff et al. report their analysis of the use of autonomous aerial vehicles to track tagged birds (O. M. Cliff et al. Sci. Robot. 3, eaat8409; 2018). They monitored wild swift parrots (Lathamus discolor, pictured), an endangered Australian species. The authors report that these drones can estimate birds’ positions as rapidly as can humans experienced at using the standard manual-tracking method.

Nature 562, 499 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07098-2

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