In the study, published in the International Journal of Remote Sensing, experts detail the world’s first astrophysics-ecology drone project that could be the answer to many global conservation efforts.
An astrophysicist and an ecologist from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), created an astounding 'eye in the sky' device to help save endangered species including rhinos and orangutan.
This device may save the endangered animals of the planet (c) taylorandfrancisgroup
Researchers brainstormed and brought together their expertise using drones to create the device. They also used thermal cameras and techniques for detecting objects in space to find a solution to this 21st Century challenge for Earth.
According to Professor Serge Wich, from LJMU’s School of Natural Sciences and Psychology and the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics,
“As an ‘eye in the sky’, conservation drones are helping the fight against illegal deforesting, poaching and habitat destruction, all leading to many species being endangered, including rhinos, orangutans, and elephants. Now, teamed with the same astrophysics analysis techniques used to find and identify objects in the far-distant Universe, we can try to do this more efficiently.”
Prof Wich is also a pioneer in using drones for conservation work and is the founder of conservationdrones.org.
Photographs of the drone used in the pilot project. A standard 30 cm, clear plastic ruler is shown on the table to provide the scale (c) tandfonline
“The World Bank estimates that ecosystems provide $33 trillion every year to the global economy and biodiversity loss and consequent ecosystem collapse is one of the ten foremost dangers facing humanity. We hope this research will help tackle these problems by allowing anyone in the world to upload their aerial data and in real time get back geo-locations of anything, whether that be survivors of natural disasters, or poachers approaching endangered species, or even the size, weight and health of livestock,” he said in a statement.
Dr Steve Longmore, from the LJMU Astrophysics Research Institute, explains the reason behind to Taylor and Francis group
, “Astrophysicists have been using thermal cameras for many decades. Crucially, it turns out the techniques we’ve developed to find and characterise the faintest objects in the Universe are exactly those needed to find and identify objects in thermal images taken with drones. The key to success is building libraries of the thermal heat profiles that act like “thermal finger prints”, allowing us to uniquely identify any animals detected. Our goal is to build the definitive finger print libraries and automated pipeline that all future efforts will rely upon.”
The experts will start expanding these techniques to other equally significant applications, including disaster relief and search and rescue as part of the next stage of the research. This phase will be funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).