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Drones for wildlife conservation - Advancing Animal Tracking with Wildlife Drones

What Wildlife Drones does

Wildlife Drones, has revolutionised wildlife tracking by developing the world’s first drone-based VHF radio-tracking system.

With Wildlife Drones’ technology, researchers no longer have to walk vast distances across challenging terrain to track animals one at a time. Instead, they can track up to 40 radio-tagged animals from a single drone flight, and analyse the insights in the field, in real-time.

The Current Landscape

In recent years, drones have revolutionised the way scientists study wildlife. Wildlife Drones is the world’s first and the world’s leading drone radio-telemtry system. Drone platforms are the most efficient method to search for radio-signals across vast, difficult terrain like wetlands or rugged mountains. Tracking VHF tags traditionally involves researchers using a Yagi Antenna and physically traversing the landscape to be within range of radio signals. This method is both time-consuming and costly.

Company Birth Story

For over 20 years, Dr Debbie Saunders has worked as an ecologist studying the movements of small migratory birds, including the Swift Parrot in Australia. Like many small animals, Swift Parrots can only be tracked with tiny, very high frequency (VHF) radio tags. As a result, researchers have traditionally depended on time-consuming and labour-intensive manual tracking methods to search for the birds on foot, one at a time. Because the Swift Parrot is a highly mobile creature, tracking them like this is a near-impossible feat.

The Solution

For decades, radio telemetry has been the go-to method for anyone seeking to track and understand animal movements. This is because the radio-transmitters are relatively inexpensive and can also be made to track even the smallest of animals. But the effort involved, in proportion to the results accrued, has always been significant and costly. Researchers will spend hours traipsing across vast (and sometimes inhospitable terrain) whilst holding a radio-receiver and yagi antenna aloft in the hope of detecting their tagged animals - one animal at a time. Wildlife Drones works with government departments, Universities, environmental consultants and private industries worldwide to assist clients with impact assessments and provide monitoring solutions for native and endangered species as well as manage invasive species populations.

A Customer Story

From tracking Giant Hornets in Washington State to Pangolins in Vietnam

Washington Department of Agriculture partnerd up with Wildlife Drones and ATS to track this invasive species.

“The idea is after we have tagged a hornet is to be able to get up in the air and go over some of these barriers and allow us to put a bettermsignal on that tracking tag and allow us to get to it a lot safer than we’ve been able to do in the past.” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) managing entomologist in an interview with Washington State news.

The tiny transmitter T15 from ATS weighs only 0.15 g and will be tied to the back of the Giant Hornet to lead researchers to their nest.

Radio-tracking animals is often no walk in the park. In fact, the landscape can be physically difficult and sometimes downright dangerous to navigate. Radio-tracking pangolins with handheld equipment on foot was a near impossible task. Researchers would often spend days navigating dense and rugged terrain just to locate a single animal. With Wildlife Drones, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife has been able to rapidly radio-track multiple pangolins all at the same time. This increased monitoring capacity has allowed SVW to deepen their understanding of the pangolins’ survival in wild reserves.

A founder quote

“By tracking from up high, the likelihood of detecting tag signals is increased due to improved line of sight with the tagged animals, rather than the signals being blocked by trees, rocks and buildings on the ground. Our technology can also track up to 40 uniquely tagged animals simultaneously, saving a huge amount of time and effort for the field team” said Dr Saunders, Founder, CEO and Chief Remote Pilot at Wildlife Drones.

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