Applying UAV Systems in Wildlife Management
Use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in wildlife applications has been increasing in recent years as system costs have come down and regulations regarding their use have become more well-defined. Medium and larger UAVs can accommodate sophisticated payloads, allowing for missions using LIDAR to obtain measurements of vegetation height and fine-scale elevation data; high resolution video and thermal imaging for surveying wildlife; remote spraying for control of exotic plants; and broadcasting audio calls for hazing wildlife at oil spills. We have been developing some additional capabilities for potential use in wildlife research. The first is using UAV platforms as a means to remotely deliver anesthetic darts into larger wildlife species. This capability would allow for anesthetizing free-ranging deer, elk, bison, moose, etc. without the restriction of being close enough to use traditional rifle-based darting. Other drugs that could be delivered include those for immunocontraception and disease inoculation. We are also developing a drone-based remote net launcher system to allow for capture of both birds and mammals. Use of UAVs to aid in wildlife management activities that previously required more expensive aerial assets (e.g., airplanes or helicopters) or were not possible due to other restrictions, may allow managers to be more efficient and expand capabilities beyond what are currently available.