Monitoring river dolphins in the Amazon is expensive and time consuming. Because of that there is a scarce understanding about their abundance and distribution. Our study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of UAV to optimize data collection in population studies of river dolphins. We tested the potential for detection and accuracy of dolphin images captured using a drone in real conditions. Two quadcopter drones (DJI Phantom 3 and 4) were launched from a double-decker riverboat navigating at 10 km/h, in an average distance of 50 m parallel to the river margin. 80 km of transects were sampled by drones, totalling eight hours of videos recorded. River dolphins were clearly detected in a range of 100m from the drone, being possible to distinguish animals from the two species. However, strong winds made it hard to land the drones. Preliminary results have shown this technology has great potential to support population studies on river dolphins. However, this method requires improvements on the range of detection, flight duration, and development of an algorithm to provide animals automated detection. Insight are welcome!
15 February 2017 9:56am
Thanks for sharing your project! i was wondering if you might be able to give a bit more information about the challenges you're looking for feedback on. From your post, it sounds like you are asking for two things:
- Practical suggestions or recommendations of how to improve flight time, which could include suggestions for different drone models or improvements
- Help developing an algorithm to detect animals automatically
Is that right?
On the second point, I wonder if you have seen the project @nksheridan has been working on in our Human-Wildlife Conflict group: an automated elephant-detection system. The aim of the system is to acquire images when PIR is triggered (like a camera-trap) and use machine-vision algorithms to determine if these images contain elephants - sounds pretty similar to what you are looking to do with dolphins?
I also wonder if you might be interesting in adding your experience to the best-practice guideline document for using drones that's being compiled by some of our members? Find out more here:
I've also attached to my comment a couple of links with more information about your project that I've seen you share in other places. The first one leads to good write up of your project and the second to a video that includes some great foootage of river dolphins captured with your drones.
(Attached Image credit: © Amanda Lélis)