Eyes in the sky

High-end drones are be­ing used to mon­i­tor Vic­to­rian wet­lands dur­ing the 2018 Duck Sea­son.

Field and Game - - NEWS -

The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning (DELWP) used a drone con­trac­tor over the open­ing week­end at wet­lands in North­ern Vic­to­ria to con­duct sur­veil­lance. This is the first year the depart­ment has used drones to sur­vey wet­lands and also to mon­i­tor the be­hav­iour of hun­ters and pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing at wet­lands that were closed. “Us­ing drones will be a great way for staff to ef­fi­ciently sur­vey large masses of land. It will mean we can put staff where they are needed and re­spond quickly to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties,” DELWP op­er­a­tions man­ager Glenn Sharp said prior to the open­ing.

“This is a trial to see if this type of sur­veil­lance pro­vides in­creased ef­fi­cien­cies at large-scale events such as duck hunt­ing open­ing week­end and other recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties on pub­lic land.”

The drones are ca­pa­ble of view­ing ac­tiv­ity from heights that would make it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple on the ground to hear or to ob­serve the drone dur­ing flight. Drones were also flown low over wet­lands, test­ing the re­ac­tion of birds. The op­er­a­tor was able to fly at heights as low at 30 m with­out ev­i­dence of dis­tur­bance.

The de­ploy­ment of drones is an in­ter­est­ing devel­op­ment, which could change the per­cep­tion of their use­ful­ness in wildlife man­age­ment.

Dr Gra­ham Hall, who was in Gipp­s­land at the start of the sea­son col­lect­ing head and wing sam­ples for re­search, is an ad­vo­cate for us­ing drones to in­form the East­ern Aus­tralian Wa­ter­fowl Count at a more lo­calised level.

He said a pa­per on an un­manned drone trial in NSW pro­vided the plat­form for a shift to tar­geted mon­i­tor­ing of key wa­ter­fowl habi­tat, which can be com­bined with satel­lite data on wa­ter avail­abil­ity and the ev­i­dence from on­go­ing re­search on har­vested birds to build a big­ger and clearer pic­ture for man­age­ment au­thor­i­ties. “It gets you into a mod­ern par­a­digm of man­age­ment that is done all around the world called adap­tive man­age­ment,” Dr Hall said.

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