The idea of using drones for environmental purposes has been a smart idea applied for project from monitoring water loss to tracking whalers. Now, a group of researchers are using drones to monitor deforestation.Mongabay reports that Lian Pin Koh, an ecologist at the ETH Zürich, and Serge Wich, a biologist at the University of Zürich and PanEco have created a conservation drone complete with cameras, sensors and GPS to map deforestation and count orangutans and other endangered species in northern Sumatra. The project was funded with seed money from the National Geographic Society, The Orangutan Conservancy, and the Denver Zoo -- and the money has been well spent. While some systems can run as high as $50,000, Koh's first drone was only $2,000 to build.
For many scientists, researchers and conservationists, satellite imagery and Google Earth maps can be enough to monitor changes in canopy cover. But often more immediate information is needed, and drones can provide it. Uses include not only monitoring changes in canopy cover and tracking deforestation but counting individual animals that researchers would have a hard time finding on foot or spotting in satellite images. The drones can also cover an area repeatedly to provide real-time information -- maybe they can even be helpful even for tracking down loggers or poachers in action.
Check out what the drone sees as it flies, and check out more videos from drone flights: