Researchers at an Australian university has found a way to use a drone to make the job of radio tracking wildlife much easier.
Traditional radio tracking of wildlife fitted with radio transmitters involves identifying likely places where an individual animal will be, and then using a large antenna to detect the radio signal of the animal's collar.
It's a very time consuming process, to say the least.
Tracking animals via remote control is a much more appealing concept. The idea of drones being re-purposed to track wildlife was trialled with a population of secretive marsupial called a bettong, which went extinct on mainland Australia 100 years ago.
The tiny animal spends much of its time during daylight hours hidden away in bushes and tussocks, in Mulligan Flats near Canberra, and tracking is used to determine how successful the reintroduction program has been.
An off-the-shelf drone was used for the project. The team removed the camera and instead fitted a receiver. Researchers say that this will decrease the cost and increase the efficiency of wildlife tracking studies, and allow more animals to be tracked at a time.
Debra Sanders, a researcher at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, stated that the new technology can help with a variety of applications.
"Because it is such a flexible system, it can be applied in so many different ways and circumstances," said Sanders. "I think the future is bright, we've had interest from all around the world."
"For a land manager, it may enable them to actually locate pest species, or identify den sites, and although that is possible from on the ground, if we can do it in a more efficient way... then we can reduce the cost... of those management techniques."