“The other way the technology has been able to address [deforestation] is to help with reforestation,” Koh said. “In places where the forest has already been felled, drones can also be used to try to assess the extent of the forest loss to help with developing plans for reforestation. Some of the more recently developed drones can even be used to shoot capsules or pellets of seedlings or seeds to directly help with the reforestation efforts.”
Wich and Koh started the nonprofit Conservation Drones in 2012 to provide information about using drones for conservation and to train conservationists, nonprofits, and national park personnel on using these drones. They co-authored the book “Conservation Drones: Mapping and Monitoring Biodiversity,” which is the first book that provides information to conservationists and engineers on how to use drones as tools in conservation activities.
“[We wanted] to raise awareness about this technology to people who are not aware of it yet,” Koh said, “and to also hopefully inspire people to think about new technology that could be adapted for conservation use.”
In the U.S., drones are being used for various conservation purposes, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and nonprofit conservation groups.
Lake McMurtry Friends, Inc. is a conservation nonprofit organization in Stillwater, Okla., that began using drones for basic video and photography purposes in the maintenance and marketing of Lake McMurtry. In 2017, a team from Lake McMurtry was asked to do an aerial survey at nearby Lake Carl Blackwell to investigate an invasive plant species called yellow floating heart. Jared Avilez, park manager and assistant director of Lake McMurtry Friends, Inc. said using the drone produced prodigious results.
“Part of the problem with this specific plant is if you drive a boat into it that’s going to basically cut the lily pad up and make it reproduce quicker,” Avilez said. “So you can’t really drive a boat into it to see how far up into a tributary the plant has spread.”