The idea is to have an aerial drone that can detect and locate the radio signals from a bird or animal that has an attached radio frequency transmitter. A prototype has been deployed already capable of detecting one signal but the goal is to be able to sequentially detect, differentiate and locate several such signals
What conservation problem are you trying to solve?
Monitoring radio signals with current techniques has several drawbacks Traditional hand held receivers can be difficult to use in dense bush; getting to sites can be difficult or dangerous; the presence of deep valley systems can interfere with signals; nearby hills and ridges can create reflected back shots to add to the confusion. Again, detecting nocturnally active species might be more difficult if the animal is in a daytime den that reduces the effective transmission of the signal. [eg kiwi] The use of fixed wing planes to detect radio signals is very expensive and usually limited to daylight hours. Some weather conditions limit the use of fixed wing aircraft.
An aerial platform can eliminate or reduce the above problems; drones can easily fly over dense forest, over wide wetlands, over savannah and can be night operable. They are a fraction of the cost of fixed wing monitoring and can fly in some weather conditions unsuitable for fixed wing aircraft
How are you going to solve this conservation problem?
A working prototype tracking one transmission has been developed [see a Youtube of the prototype named “Duckatron” on the Habitat te Henga Facebook page September 2015] and concepts have been developed for the next step of how to pass over sites where several individuals with transmitters are to be monitored detecting the multiple signals and locating those individuals. The initial problems of differentiating the radio signals needed to fly the drone from the radio signals fro the transmitter on the animal have been sorted. The locations could be stored on board to then be down loaded on return or it could be transmitted to a base unit while aloft.
What makes your idea new and unique?
UAV, [" drones"] are commonplace in monitoring many species of birds or animals with camera and are particularly useful as they can pass overhead without creating anxiety or avoidance behavior but so far no effective RF tracking of multiple transmissions has been developed.
Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?
Our drone idea arose when we were monitoring translocated pateke in a dense wetland and the difficulties of access, backshots etc became apparent. It was immediately obvious that the idea of monitoring by drone would have many applications beyond the one species. Local managers of kiwi populations have expressed great interest and we even had an enquiry from a South African anti-rhino poaching group. They were disappointed to find we were still at the developmental stage. Monitoring by drone could therefore even have an international value for a great range of species. Drones then could be used over difficult terrain, could monitor at night, and at far lesser cost than some current methods.
What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?
The next stage of the program is to enable multiple signals to be rapidly sequentially analysed and located. This requires some considerable programming
Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?
List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?
Celium: A reduction in manhours checking traps would be great
Wasp wipeout: Having ben involved inthe first NGO to us fipronil can appreciate the idea of large scale control
Immersive Conservation: Not all kids can have accs to the wonderful variety of natural habitat we have in NZ. Virtual reality might be a way to insill the ownder pf some of these habitats
Bay Conservation: Groups always struggle ith managemnt shotrtfalls more than volunteers or hardware so combining grou
How could you improve your idea?
developing radio becons at perimeters of a asearch are so that the drones can lock on to these and can folow a pre-programmed grid pattern search for the radio signals form the transmitter carrying animals or birds