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24 Feb 2012: Conservationists Launch Drone
To Monitor Forest Loss and Wildlife

A coalition of scientists and environmental advocacy groups has developed a camera-equipped drone they say could become a key conservation tool for monitoring forest loss and endangered wildlife. The coalition — which includes The Orangutan Conservancy, the Denver Zoo, and two Swiss scientists — has already deployed a remote-control drone to map deforestation and count orangutans in the remote forests of North Sumatra in Indonesia, according to a report in Mongabay. The drone, which was developed by ecologist Lian Pin Koh at ETH Zürich, is able to travel a pre-programmed flight route and take aerial photos and video footage. During 30 flights so far, it has collected hundreds of photos and hours of video, including images of oil palm plantings along the edge of a river. According to the developers, the pilot drone costs about $2,000. “My dream is that in the future, every field ecologist will have a drone as part of their toolkit, since it doesn’t cost more than a good pair of binoculars,” said Koh. The seed funding for the project was provided by the National Geographic Society.

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