Drones / Feed

Used to pick up signals from tracking gear on the ground, collect images of wildlife and habitats from the air, gather acoustic data with specialized hydrophones, or even collect snot samples from whales' blowholes, drones are capable of collecting high-resolution data quickly, noninvasively, and at relatively low cost.


Mass Detection of Wildlife Snares Using Airborne Synthetic Radar

Mass Detection of Wildlife Snares Using Airborne Synthetic RadarFor the last year my colleauges Prof. Mike Inggs (Radar - Electrical Engineering, Unviversity of Cape Town) and...

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Thank you so much for your support. I am finding it really difficult to find the funding for the initial development. We need lots of engineering time to refine our detection and trial it in ever more complex habitats. We really need money for a well-qualified electronic engineer competent in signal processing to work on this full-time as my PhD student, has to hold down a full-time job as Radar lead for a satellite company.

Happy to help out with the processing of the SAR images and building a model on top of it. 

Hi @DaveGaynor regarding funding, have you reached out to any lodges? I know that snaring is rife in the Manyaleti ... maybe some of the lodges in the Sabi Sands would be interested in helping you with your goal? 

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Using drones and camtraps to find sloths in the canopy

Recently, I started volunteering for Sloth Conservation Foundation and learned that it is extremely difficult to find sloths in the canopy  because: 1) they hardly move,...

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Yes,  if the canopy is sparse enough, you can see through the canopy with TIR what you cannot see in the RGB. We had tested with large mammals like rhinos and elephants that we could not see at all with the RGB under a semi-sparse canopy but were very clearly visible in TIR. It was actually quite surprising how easily we could detect the mammals under the canopy. It's likely similar for mid-sized mammals that live in the canopy that those drier seasons will be much easier to detect, although we did not test small mammals for visibility through the seasons. Other research has and there are a number of studies on primates now. 

I did quite a bit of flying above the canopy, and did not have many problems. It's just a matter of always flying bit higher than the canopy. There are built in crash avoidance mechanisms in the drones themselves for safety so they do not crash, although they do get confused with a very brancy understory. They often miss smaller branches.If you look in the specifications of the particular UAV you will see they do not perform well with certain understories, so there is a chance of crashing. The same with telephone wires or other infrastructure that you have to be careful about. 

Also, it's good practice to always be able to see the drone, line-of-sight, which is actually a requirement for flight operations in many countries. Although you may be able to get around it by being in a tower or being in an open area. 

 Some studies have used AI classifiers and interesting frameworks to discuss full or partial detections, sometimes it is unknown if it is the animal of interest. I would carefully plan any fieldwork around the seasons and make sure to get any of your paperwork approved well before the months of the dry season. It's going to be your best chance to detect them. 

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Introducing The Inventory!

The Inventory is your one-stop shop for conservation technology tools, organisations, and R&D projects. Start contributing to it now!

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This is fantastic, congrats to the WildLabs team! Look forward to diving in.
Hi @JakeBurton,thanks for your great work on the Inventory!Would it be possible to see or filter new entries or reviews?Greetings from Austrian forest,Robin 
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Seeking Advice on Thermal Drones for Night-Time Elephant Observation

Hi everyone,I'm looking for an affordable yet effective thermal drone to observe elephants at night in Sri Lanka, aiming to address human-elephant conflict. Has anyone used...

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Hi Nilaksha (and everyone else),

I have been looking at the application of thermal to improve the automated detection through RGB imagery. One of the large drawbacks of thermal is the lower resolution. This is impart cost but also down to basic physics, IR light has a much longer wavelength and therefore a sensor can't have as many 'pixels' on it compared to an RGB sensor. This implies that you either need a thermal camera lens with a longer focal length, which reduces the area you cover, or you need to fly much lower. The drawback of the latter is you cover much less ground per unit of time/battery and you have the potential of disturbing the animals.

I know that DJI have recently released a starlight camera combined with thermal (DJI Enterprise Zenmuse H20N). It looks very impressive but I have not yet managed to test it. Being self-funded as well I have opted for hiring in a drone company to fly for me with the state of the art equipment rather than buying and flying myself. 

Hope that helps and keen to hear how you get on!

@PaulAllin Thanks for your valuable insights. Zenmuse H20N seems to be very powerful and useful in this case. However, I'm looking for a more affordable option for a self-funded research. 

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Passionate engineer offering funding and tech solutions pro-bono.

My name is Krasi Georgiev and I run an initiative focused on providing funding and tech solutions for stories with a real-world impact. The main reason is that I am passionate...

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Hi Krasi! Greetings from Brazil!

That's a cool journey you've started! Congratulations. And I felt like theSearchLife resonates with the work I'm involved round here. In a nutshell, I live at the heart of the largest remaining of Atlantic forest in the planet - one of the most biodiverse biomes that exist. The subregion where I live is named after and bathed by the "Rio Sagrado" (Sacred River), a magnificent water body with a very rich cultural significance to the region (it has served as a safe zone for fleeing slaves). Well, the river and the entire bioregion is currently under the threat of a truly devastating railroad project which, to say the least is planned to cut through over 100 water springs! 

In face of that the local community (myself included) has been mobilizing to raise awareness of the issue and hopefully stop this madness (fueled by strong international forces). One of the ways we've been fighting this is through the seeking of the recognition of the sacred river as an entity of legal rights, who can manifest itself in court, against such threats. And to illustrate what this would look like, I've been developing this AI (LLM) powered avatar for the river, which could maybe serve as its human-relatable voice. An existing prototype of such avatar is available here. It has been fine-tuned with over 20 scientific papers on the Sacred River watershed.

And right now myself and other are mobilizing to manifest the conditions/resources to develop a next version of the avatar, which would include remote sensing capacities so the avatar is directly connected to the river and can possibly write full scientific reports on its physical properties (i.e. water quality) and the surrounding biodiversity. In fact, myself and 3 other members of the WildLabs community have just applied to the WildLabs Grant program in order to accomplish that. Hopefully the results are positive.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that our mobilization around providing an expression medium for the river has been multimodal, including the creation of a shortfilm based on theatrical mobilizations we did during a fest dedicated to the river and its surrounding more-than-human communities. You can check that out here:


Let's chat if any of that catches your interest!


Hi Danilo. you seem very passionate about this initiative which is a good start.
It is an interesting coincidence that I am starting another project for the coral reefs in the Philipines which also requires water analytics so I can probably work on both projects at the same time.

Let's that have a call and discuss, will send you a pm with my contact details

There is a tech glitch and I don't get email notifications from here.

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Using drone or other unmanned vehicle for DNA sampling on fresh elephant dung in a Baï, Congo Rainforest.

Hi all,Elephant listening project and WWF CAR are working on elephant identification in Dzanga Baï (clearance in the forest) since several years now. We would like to compare our...

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I think we can habituate elephant to noise, especially if it's could looks like a natural one.

The problem is that many elephants are concentrated in the baï and if we want to avoid DNA contamination we have to sample it quite fast.

Hi Antoine,

I would recommend talking to the engineers at Outreach Robotics - @Gcharron .

We have been working on collecting tools for rare plants, and I would guess it wouldn't be a huge adjustment to collect elephant dung.  I think the amount of dung required for analysis will drive the size of the collecting drone. Maybe the drone could be up very high to not disturb the elephants with a long line sampling mechanism? 

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Reasonable price for drone pilot (south africa)?

Hi everyone, A colleague is looking for a cost check on going rates for drone pilots in South Africa. Is £500-£700 a day reasonable? They'd be flying drones in a project to...

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Hello Stephanie,

I am not sure if you are still monitoring this thread, but if you need any information, please let me know. I have flown drones for a couple of years in Zimbabwe and South Africa in conservation and anti-poaching operations. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Regarding the £500-700 range you mentioned, it seems waaaayyyy overpriced. Those rates are usually charged by lawyers and accountants in South Africa.

If you have found the information you were seeking, I wish you all the best.


Hi Steph,

I think everyone below has summarised it pretty well.

A couple of comments to add.

Select your pilot well - We offer drone flying services. This wasn't our intention, initially, however we have determined that there are many drone pilots, but fewer who do it really well. Having said that, we work predominantly with animal tracking equipment, not just flying straight line vectors, if this is what you are undertaking.

In Australia, fees to become a pilot are about $5,000 AUD, and a reasonable commercial drone with changeable payload capability costs around $20,000- $30,000 AUD, and then as is suggested below, there are insurance and factoring in repairs and maintenance, and of course eventual replacement costs, travel, an hourly rate as wages etc. Obviously, the day rates you have listed aren't profit, they include cost.


Wildlife Drones


Hi, I have used a commercial company for drone work for my PhD and they were willing to give me a significant discount for research purposes. One thing to consider is that in SA a drone pilot requires a pilots license and there is quite some red tape to go through which does make it much more complex than just going out and buying a drone oneself. The price you mention seems on the high side to me but I'm not sure if that already includes the drone, sensors, flight permissions, travel of the pilot to and from your location and any other costs.

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Need advice - image management and tagging 

Hello Wildlabs,Our botany team is using drones to survey vertical cliffs for rare and endangered plants. Its going well and we have been able to locate and map many new...

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I have no familiarity with Lightroom, but the problem you describe seems like a pretty typical data storage and look up issue.  This is the kind of problem that many software engineers deal with on a daily bases.  In almost every circumstance this class of problem is solved using a database.

In fact, a potentially useful analysis is that the Lightroom database is not providing the feature set you need.

It seems likely that you are not looking for a software development project, and setting up you own DB would certainly require some effort, but if this is a serious issue for your work, you hope to scale your work up, or bring many other participants into your project, it might make sense to have an information system that better fits your needs.

There are many different databases out there optimized for different sorts of things.  For this I might suggest taking a look at MongoDB with GridFS for a couple of reasons.

  1. It looks like you meta data is in JSON format.  Many DBs are JSON compatible, but Mongo is JSON native.  It is especially good at storing and retrieving JSON data.  Its JSON search capabilities are excellent and easy to use.  It looks like you could export your data directly from Lightroom into Mongo, so it might be pretty easy actually.
  2. Mongo with the GridFS package is an excellent repository for arbitrarily large image files.
  3. It is straightforward to make a Mongo database accessible via a website.
  4. They are open source (in a manner of speaking) and you can run it for free.

Disclaimer: I used to work for MongoDB.  I don't anymore and I have no vested interest at all, but they make a great product that would really crush this whole class of problem.

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Cutting edge plant conservation

A game-changing new tool is helping conservationists working with critically endangered cliff plants 

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Great work!  Although even the expanded numbers of individual plants are still concerningly tiny, it is reassuring to know that nature can keep more secret holdouts than we...
This has been an incredible adventure so far! Glad to have contributed to a new technology that will have a concrete ecological impact.
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Ekobot WEAI robot - autonomous weeding at farm scale

A little off the typical path for Wildlabs - and probably not the sort of drone people typically think about here 😄 - but I find robotic agriculture very interesting, with the potential to greatly reduce use of poison and improve effective yields. Anyone working on like things?


Drones for GIS Best practice Document

We've just released the latest version of our best practice document   General refresh and update based on knowledge acquired over the last couple of years...

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They will be great for crocs. I'm sure the RSPB can provide a presentation of the variety of applications we have used UAV's for including bird monitoring, nest finding, habitat assessments and their limitations/ legislation/ technicalities.

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