New drone technology launched to monitor critically endangered species in NSW

State-of-the-art technology created by a drone developer on Sydney’s north shore has been switched on in a new effort to help give threatened species of plants and animals a new lease of life.

A ‘digital owl’ drone designed at the Carbonix workshop in Artarmon has undergone its first trial in remote parts of NSW as part of an initiative to identify, monitor and record at-risk species.

The project, developed alongside Fujitsu, involves a battery-powered drone flying at various altitudes, capturing 5000 images which can then be analysed by the NSW Office of Environment (OEH).

The digital owl takes off at Mount Dangar
The digital owl takes off at Mount Dangar

The first trial in dense bushland at Mount Dangar in the Upper Hunter identified two critically endangered plant species including Acacia dangarensis – a variety of wattle susceptible to weed infestations, bushfires and grazing animals including goats.

Fujitsu head of co-creation and innovation Ramy Ibrahim said the technology was able to accurately plot the location of species.

“One of the aims of the project was to improve the data capturing method (and) provide accurate baseline data on a population which can then be compared to future readings,” he said.

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The battery powered droned flies at various altitudes to capture images of plant and animal species.
The battery powered droned flies at various altitudes to capture images of plant and animal species.

“Mount Danger is around 670m in elevation and the only way to get there is an all-day walk or by helicopter – drones make the identification process a lot easier.”

The digital owl has a wing span of three metres and is equipped with high definition RBG cameras, along with multi-spectral cameras to record water content.

Mr Ibrahim said data captured through the project could be analysed by the OEH as part of eradication programs to reduce the threat of invasive species.

Figures by the NSW Office of Environment show there are approximately 1000 plant and animal species at threat of extinction across the state.

“It will allow us to protect species for future generations,” he said.

Benefits of the technology was recognised at the 2019 Green Globe Awards.
Benefits of the technology was recognised at the 2019 Green Globe Awards.

Mr Ibrahim said the next step in the project include expending the technology to other parts of NSW to identify threatened or endangered animals.

The technology received the Natural Environment Award at the 2019 NSW Environment Green Globe Awards.

Department of Environment deputy secretary James Hay said the project would “ensure NSW achieves the most sustainable, thriving and resilient future.”

 

by David Barwell, North Shore Times

2nd December 2019

The Daily Telegraph (Australia)

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