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Drones with thermal cameras may help improving protection of endangered species

Posted February 11, 2017

Where would you look for a solution to protect endangered species? For decades people have been putting tremendous efforts into saving rare animals, but some of them are still approaching a point of no return. However, now scientists are pointing their eyes towards the sky – researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Liverpool John Moores University are thinking about using drones now.

Scientists say this new approach may help protecting such vulnerable species as rhinos, orang-utans, and elephants. Image credit: Lip Kee via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

In fact, scientists are trying to use methods previously seen in the studies of some objects in space. They are going to combine drones with thermal cameras to find and characterise groups of endangered animals. Scientists say people should think about it as common reports with police helicopter footage, capturing chasing villains at night. Some things are invisible to conventional cameras in the dark and thermal cameras, sensitive to temperature differences, are designed just for that purpose. Furthermore, they are small enough for drones to be used – helicopters and other manned aircraft is not needed.

The goal of these efforts is to identify unique “thermal finger prints” of various species. The thought behind is that scientists will be able to accurately identify animals just from their thermal image. Drones are already being used for environmental purposes – they are helping scientists to monitor illegal deforesting, poaching and habitat destruction, which is important in trying to protect such animals as rhinos, orang-utans, and elephants. The decline of wildlife is a major threat to humanity, although not every country is recognizing. Scientists not hope that combining methods from distant space object observations and drones used for conservation purpose could lead to a major step to the right direction.

Scientists say that everyone in the world will be allowed to participate. Everyone will be able to upload their aerial data and in real time get back geo-locations of anything. The system should also help survivors of natural disasters and officers combatting poachers. In fact, scientists say that the next step of the research is expanding these techniques to other equally significant applications, including disaster relief and search and rescue.

Different fields of science have accomplished so much that they can already start learning from each other. However, we will have to wait and see if “thermal finger prints” of various species can be identified and if such a novel monitoring technique will prove useful in preservation of endangered species.


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