Drone technology is transforming the way research and conservation is carried out across the globe. In just a few years it has become a powerful tool that is accessible to many conservationists. Not only because of its multiple applications and providing valuable information at low costs, but also because it’s evolving rapidly and creatively helping conservationists to find new ways to answer tricky research questions and tackle conservation challenges in real-time.
In 2014 we acquired our first quadcopter drone to assist with our conservation efforts, including small-scale landscape mapping, assisting the Forest Patrol Team and local firefighters to spot forest fires and determine an effective fire suppression strategy, and providing powerful and evocative footage of Borneo’s incredible landscape. Our experience, ambition and conservation commitment led us to expand the drones for conservation concept, by recently purchasing a new fix-wing drone that will allow us to carry out large-scale mapping and forest monitoring.
Field practice with the fixed-wing drone
The new fix-wing drone has been designed and constructed during a recent workshop in Palangka Raya (home to BNF HQ), involving our Conservation Team and a new specialist BNF Drone Operator. The combinations of the high resolution geo-referenced pictures will provide landscape scale ortho-photographs; the resulting orthomosaic is a beautiful large georeferenced image that can be analysed in any GIS or remote sensing software.
Our new ‘eyes in the sky’ will help us better understand Borneo’s landscape as we take a look at the bigger picture. If we can understand the landscape as a whole then we stand a better chance of protecting an entire ecosystem and all the species that can be found within.
The drone operators are planning their first forest-mapping expedition in January; this will be to an area in the south of the Sabangau forest. We plan to use the drone to map all areas in which BNF is working, including areas of unprotected forest we are working to save; for orangutan nest surveys; to map areas for reforestation; and to support the fire-fighting team during the dry season.(DN)
Thank you to the Orangutan Appeal UK for supporting our conservation drones project.