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Best practice for minimising unmanned aerial vehicle disturbance to wildlife in biological field research



The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), colloquially referred to as 'drones', for biological field research is increasing [1-3]. Small, civilian UAVs are providing a viable, economical tool for ecology researchers and environmental managers. UAVs are particularly useful for wildlife observation and monitoring as they can produce systematic data of high spatial and temporal resolution [4]. However, this new technology could also have undesirable and unforeseen impacts on wildlife, the risks of which we currently have little understanding [5-7]. There is a need for a code of best practice in the use of UAVs to mitigate or alleviate these risks, which we begin to develop here.
Current Biology
R404 Current Biology 26, R387–R407, May 23, 2016 © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
moved around and sat near the site for
about 2 minutes, after which he left with
the rest of the group.
This report complements accounts
of responses to dying and dead
individuals in four other wild primate
species (Table S2). Multiple factors
probably contribute to the variable
nature of responses recorded, including
the cause and context of death, quality
of the social relationships between the
deceased and other group members
[7,8], and possibly species-typical social
organization. The snub-nosed monkey
DM migrated into ZBD’s unit in October
2010. The strong bond between DM
and ZBD over the subsequent three-
year period (DM gave birth to one infant
in March 2012) likely underpinned the
caretaking behaviors shown by the
male toward the dying female, recalling
similar behavior in chimpanzees [4,8]
and a male marmoset [9].
Both ZBD and other members of his
OMU uttered alarm calls and contact
calls as the female lay dying. Alarm
calls are usually given in response
to danger (such as the approach of
a dog) on the ground. Conceivably,
DM’s sudden fall from the tree and
her unusual behavior as she lay
dying aroused some degree of fear or
anxiety in the monkeys, as reported
in other cases of sudden, traumatic
deaths [5,9]. ‘Unexplained’ deaths
and deaths resulting from obvious
injury elicit different responses in
chimpanzees [5].
No individuals other than members
of her own OMU contacted the
dying female. In another species
characterized by OMUs — geladas — a
dying adult female also received only
passing visual attention from other
OMU members [10]. Furthermore,
although affi liative acts toward the dying
DM were seen in all members of the
focal OMU, only the adult male tended
her after she died, further supporting
the expression of compassion by an
individual with a strong bond to the
deceased. His responses included
exploration, attempts to elicit a
response from the female, and affi liative
acts including embracing (Table S3).
These observations, combined with
others in the literature, suggest that
compassionate caretaking is not unique
to humans and great apes [2–5], at least
when dying individuals and survivors
share an emotional bond.
Supplemental Information includes Experimen-
tal Procedures and three Tables and can be
found with this article online at http://dx.doi.
The study was supported by the Key Program
of National Natural Science Fund ( 31130061),
National Natural Science Foundation of China
( 31572278, 31270442,31470456,31501872),
Special Foundation of Shaanxi Academy of
Sciences, China ( 2014K-29). The funding
organizations had no role in study design, data
collection and analysis, decision to publish,
or preparation of the manuscript. We thank
Zhouzhi National Nature Reserve for permission
to carry out this study. We greatly appreciate our
eld assistants for indispensable support during
this study, especially students from the Primate
Research Center of Northwest University China .
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1Shaanxi Key Laboratory for Animal
Conservation, Shaanxi Institute of Zoology,
Shaanxi Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710032,
China. 2Department of Psychology, Kyoto
University Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto
606-8501, Japan. 3Shaanxi Key Laboratory
for Animal Conservation, and College of Life
Sciences, Northwest University, Xi’an 710069,
China. 4Co-fi rst authors.
Best practice
for minimising
unmanned aerial
vehicle disturbance
to wildlife in
biological fi eld
Jarrod C. Hodgson* and Lian Pin Koh
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs), colloquially referred to as
‘drones’, for biological fi eld research is
increasing [1–3]. Small, civilian UAVs are
providing a viable, economical tool for
ecology researchers and environmental
managers. UAVs are particularly useful
for wildlife observation and monitoring
as they can produce systematic data
of high spatial and temporal resolution
[4]. However, this new technology could
also have undesirable and unforeseen
impacts on wildlife, the risks of which
we currently have little understanding
[5–7]. There is a need for a code of best
practice in the use of UAVs to mitigate or
alleviate these risks, which we begin to
develop here.
Different wildlife populations can
respond idiosyncratically to a UAV
in proximity depending on a variety
of factors, including the species,
environmental and historical context, as
well as the type of UAV and its method
of operation. While we do not presently
have suffi cient information on how these
factors might affect wildlife to develop
prescriptive policies for UAV use, we
could draw from existing guidelines for
ensuring the ethical treatment of animals
in research [8,9]. For example, the
ARRIVE (Animals in Research: Reporting
In Vivo Experiments) guidelines detail
the minimum information all scientifi c
publications reporting research using
laboratory animals should include [10],
which may serve as a good starting point
for the UAV context.
Considering the growing popularity of
UAVs as a tool among fi eld biologists, we
advocate for the precautionary principle
to manage these risks. Specifi cally, we
provide a suite of recommendations as
the basis for a code of best practice in
Current Biology
Current Biology 26, R387–R407, May 23, 2016 R405
the use of UAVs in the vicinity of animals
or for the purpose of animal research,
which supplement current standards in
animal fi eld research and reporting.
Adopt the precautionary principle
in lieu of evidence. When researchers
cannot make informed decisions about
minimum wildlife disturbance fl ight
practices for their environment or study
species, they should exercise caution,
particularly if endangered species
or ecologically sensitive habitats are
involved. While reported observations of
animal responses to UAVs are increasing,
there is a need for more empirical
evidence across a range of animals and
environments. Experiments that ethically
quantify disturbance using captive and
wild animals to fi ll this knowledge gap
are necessary to inform minimum wildlife
disturbance practices. As an interim
measure, expert advice on species and
UAV monitoring should be obtained
for operations involving taxa whose
responses to UAVs are poorly quantifi ed
or unknown.
Utilise the institutional animal
ethics process to provide oversight
to UAV-derived animal observations
and experiments. UAV monitoring
that involves animals will benefi t
from ensuring all UAV methods are in
accordance with approved institutional
ethics permits. We encourage UAV users
to seek this approval when appropriate
and explain the anticipated benefi t of
using UAV technology in their situation.
Ethics committees should evaluate these
claims relative to comparative traditional
techniques (e.g. ground surveys or
remotely sensed data from an alternative,
higher altitude platform such as manned
aircraft or satellites).
Adhere to relevant civil aviation rules
and adopt equipment maintenance
and operator training schedules.
UAV operations need to comply with all
relevant civil aviation rules which may
include restrictions on fl ying beyond
visual line of sight, above a defi ned
altitude, at night and near people or in
the vicinity of important infrastructure
and prohibited areas. In countries
where rules are not present or are still
evolving, operators are encouraged to
exercise caution. UAV equipment should
be regularly serviced to ensure good
working order, and maintenance recorded
appropriately. Experienced operators
should be utilised for UAV operations
(formal accreditation is necessary in
some countries). Where appropriate,
approval for fl ight should be sought from
indigenous communities.
Select appropriate UAV and sensor
equipment. UAVs should be selected
to minimise visual and audio stimulus to
target and non-target organisms, while
remaining capable of satisfying study
objectives. Consideration should be
given to the way different units move
(e.g. the gliding motion of a fi xed-wing
unit) as well as their shape, volume and
colour relative to the study environment.
In some cases, it may be benefi cial to
modify UAVs to mimic non-threatening
wildlife, e.g. a bird that is not a predator
of the target species. Sensors should be
optimised (e.g. focal length) to enable
collection of suitable data from a UAV
operated, typically, as high or as far as
possible from the subjects.
Exercise minimum wildlife
disturbance fl ight practices. Particular
attention should be given to siting launch
and recovery sites away from animals
(out of sight if possible) and maintaining
a reasonable distance from animals at all
times during fl ight. Potentially threatening
approach trajectories and sporadic fl ight
movements should be avoided. Species-
specifi c protocols, including optimum
ight altitude, should be developed and
implemented wherever possible.
Cease UAV operations if they
are excessively disruptive. Animal
responses should be measured during
UAV operations (and before and after if
possible). Monitoring stress response at
a physiological level is encouraged, as is
the use of tracking technology to quantify
potential displacement. Operations
should be aborted if excessive
disturbance results, especially in cases
when quantifi cation of UAV disturbance
is not a research interest. The methods
for such studies should be reviewed and
only resumed with a refi ned protocol if
justifi able.
Detailed, accurate reporting of
methods and results in publications.
UAV specifi cations and fl ight practices
should be reported accurately and
in full. Thorough results should be
reported to ensure fi ndings can be
integrated in future research. Notes of
animal responses (see above) should be
included in published studies to generate
an evidence base for refi ned guidelines.
We encourage authors to be proactive
in sharing suggestions for improving
UAV best practices in biological fi eld
research and also to guide the regulation
of recreational use. Importantly, such
reports should include both positive
and negative observations, including
accidents during operations and
incidents of excessive disturbances to
animals. Publishers may wish to consider
minimum reporting requirements for
manuscripts that involve UAV operations.
Promoting the awareness,
development and uptake of a code of
best practice in the use of UAVs will
improve their suitability as a low impact
ecological survey tool. We consider this
code to be a fi rst and guiding step in
the development of species-specifi c
protocols that mitigate or alleviate
potential UAV disturbance to wildlife.
J.C.H. and L.P.K. conceived and wrote the paper.
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21st century: Where do unmanned aircraft fi t in?1.
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M.A., Wilkinson, B.E., Szantoi, Z., Ifju, P.G., and
Percival, H.F. (2010). Small unmanned aircraft
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Lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles will
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and molt in the UK1. J. Unmanned Vehicle
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(2013). Australian code for the care and use
of animals for scientifi c purposes. 8th Edition
(Canberra: National Health and Medical Research
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guidelines for reporting animal research. PLoS
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School of Biological Sciences, The University
of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
... This also applies for non-target species, such as marine mammals and raptors, which may be adversely affected by drone flight (Junda et al. 2015, Palomino-González et al. 2021. It is therefore essential that studies take appropriate measures to minimise disturbance to wildlife and monitor disturbance during surveys so that operations can cease if required (Hodgson & Koh 2016). ...
... Two studies investigated whether the sound of a multi-rotor drone was responsible for seabird behavioural changes, but both reported that the drone was no louder than ambient noise from the seabird colony (Table A4; Goebel et al. 2015, Irigoin-Lovera et al. 2019. We recommend detailed reporting of the equipment, flight methods used, and level of disturbance observed, as shown in Table A4, in all data published from drone surveys to help increase understanding of species' responses to different drone platforms in a range of environments and situations, leading to improved methods to minimise impacts (Hodgson & Koh 2016, Barnas et al. 2020. ...
... Nevertheless, when flying at a new site, a precautionary principle should always be adopted in the absence of evidence (Hodgson & Koh 2016), and so we recommend that a trial is conducted to determine appropriate flight parameters (Mulero-Pázmány et al. 2017). Since there is a trade-off between image resolution and disturbance, we suggest starting at a height that is unlikely to cause disturbance and then working down to the maximum height (completing all changes in altitude away from the colony) at which the ground sampling distance is sufficient to accurately identify individuals without altering behaviour of both target and non-target species (Rush et al. 2018, Duporge et al. 2021, Dunn et al. 2021. ...
Full-text available
Over the past decade, drones have become increasingly popular in environmental biology and have been used to study wildlife on all continents. Drones have become of global importance for surveying breeding seabirds by providing opportunities to transform monitoring techniques and allow new research on some of the most threatened birds. However, such fast-changing and increasingly available technology presents challenges to regulators responding to requests to carry out surveys and to researchers ensuring their work follows best practices and meets legal and ethical standards. Following a workshop convened at the 14th International Seabird Group Conference and a subsequent literature search, we collate information from over 100 studies and present a framework to ensure drone-seabird surveys are safe, effective, and within the law. The framework comprises eight steps: (1) Objectives and Feasibility; (2) Technology and Training; (3) Site Assessment and Permission; (4) Disturbance Mitigation; (5) Pre-deployment Checks; (6) Flying; (7) Data Handling and Analysis; and (8) Reporting. The audience is wide ranging with sections having relevance for different users, including prospective and experienced drone-seabird pilots, landowners, and licensors. Regulations vary between countries and are frequently changing, but common principles exist. Taking-off, landing, and conducting in-flight changes in altitude and speed at ≥ 50 m from the study area, and flying at ≥ 50 m above ground-nesting seabirds/horizontal distance from vertical colonies, should have limited disturbance impact on many seabird species; however, surveys should stop if disturbance occurs. Compared to automated methods, manual or semi-automated image analyses are, at present, more suitable for infrequent drone surveys and surveys of relatively small colonies. When deciding if drone-seabird surveys are an appropriate monitoring method long-term, the cost, risks, and results obtained should be compared to traditional field monitoring where possible. Accurate and timely reporting of surveys is essential to developing adaptive guidelines for this increasingly common technology
... The CEP proceeded to draft an Action Plan for the conservation of the emperor penguin, but designation as an Antarctic SPS has not yet been agreed. In a final example, a synthesis paper produced by Hodgson & Koh (2016) concerning best practice for minimizing drone disturbance to wildlife in biological field research was presented to CEP XX by SCAR (SCAR 2017), which subsequently contributed to the production of the 'CEP environmental guidelines for operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in Antarctica'; Resolution 4 (2018); devAS/Meetings/Measure/679). ...
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Communication at the science-policy interface can be bewildering not only for early-career researchers, but also for many within the research community. In the context of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, decision-makers operating within the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) aspire to use the best available science as a basis for their decision-making. Therefore, to maximize the impact of Antarctic Treaty Parties' substantial investment in southern polar research, researchers wishing to contribute to policy and management must understand 1) how their work relates to and can potentially inform Antarctic and/or global policy and 2) the available mechanisms by which their research can be communicated to decision-makers. Recognizing these needs, we describe the main legal instruments relevant to Antarctic governance (primarily the ATS) and the associated meetings and stakeholders that contribute to policy development for the region. We highlight effective mechanisms by which Antarctic researchers may communicate their science into the policy realm, including through National Delegations or the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and we detail the key contemporary topics of interest to decision-makers, including those issues where further research is needed. Finally, we describe challenges at the Antarctic science-policy interface that may potentially slow or halt policy development.
... Basking behaviour in open systems (e.g., bedrock based, mature river reaches), especially during the winter season, offers the ideal UAV monitoring scenario as many crocodiles leave the water between 10h00 and 17h00 to thermoregulate (Downs et al., 2008). The effects of UAV presence, with a focus on auditory and visual disturbances, observer bias, ethical flight practices, and UAV-related animal behaviours, have been considered (Hodgson and Koh, 2016;Bevan et al., 2018; Appendix 1). The recommended flight altitudes for crocodilians range from 40 to 50 meters, depending on the imaging sensor used, to produce images with sufficient clarity and photogrammetric accuracy for crocodile population monitoring (Bevan et al., 2018;Ezat et al., 2018;Aubert et al., 2021;Myburgh et al., 2021). ...
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Population surveys of crocodilians using uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones may become accurate and cost-effective alternatives to more traditional approaches. However, there are currently no quantitative methods for deriving body condition scores of crocodilians through remote sensing. This study presents seven UAV-based morphometric measures collected from rectified aerial imagery of farmed Nile crocodiles. Two hundred and eighty-eight Nile crocodiles, from two commercial crocodile farms in South Africa were included in this study. One farm housed crocodiles which appeared to have wider abdominal girths than those on the second farm, allowing comparisons for a range of sizes and body condition states. An initial disturbance assessment was conducted, and an appropriate flight altitude selected for image acquisition of farmed Nile crocodiles. Altitudes between 40m and 60m above ground level suited the studies requirements and minimized disturbance. A UAV-based body condition index for Nile crocodiles was then developed, offering a non-invasive alternative to traditional condition scoring methods. The body condition index (BCI) was calculated for each crocodile by measuring the relationship between total length and belly width (with the equation: BCI = BW/TL*10) derived from photogrammetrically processed orthophotos in GIS. The BCI values were then normalized to form a body condition score (BCS) with the equation: BCS = (BCI/1.27)*4 + 1. The BCS ranked crocodile body conditions from 1-5, where a score of 1 identified a crocodile that was comparatively thin or emaciated, while a score of 5 identified a crocodile that was relatively fat or obese in contrast to the other crocodiles assessed. A BCS of 3 was the most frequent across all crocodiles in the study, with few animals scoring a 1 or 5. The farm housing crocodiles with narrower abdominal girths had no BCS 5 occurrences, and the farm housing crocodiles with wider abdominal girths had no BCS 1 occurrences. This UAV-based body condition score could be applied to large wild or captive populations for a fast-paced health and welfare evaluation.
... • Potential disturbances to animals caused by the operation of the UAV (Headland et al., 2021;Hodgson & Koh, 2016;Scobie & Hugenholtz, 2016), is counterproductive to the task and requires mitigation strategies. ...
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... This ensures that animal welfare remains a key consideration when planning and executing RPAS operations. To uphold safe operational practices, a precautionary approach should be adopted, aiming to minimize wildlife disturbance [12,13]. Strategies for mitigating RPAS-related impacts on animals include: Testing species-and location-specific disturbance distances prior to formal surveys; increasing take-off distances from animals; and flying small aircraft (i.e., <2 kg) in an automated flight path of survey Drones 2023, 7, 510 2 of 10 transects at relatively slow speeds to reduce noise-related disturbance [8,11,14]. ...
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... We used three models of small quadcopter drone (DJI Mavic Pro). Drone flights were performed according to current recommendations to minimize disturbance to birds (Hodgson & Koh 2016). The drone was launched at least at 150 m from the colony, it climbed vertically to 70 m above ground level (AGL) and then approached the colony, using a lawn mower flight pattern (Valle & Scarton 2021b) to reach a point above the colony at 20-70 m AGL, where it hovered to take imagery at an angle as vertical as possible in order to minimize variations in subject size and shape (Chabot & Francis 2016). ...
Monitoring waterbirds is fundamental to understand the health status of wetland habitats. However, this monitoring has to be conducted by means of reliable data collection that can provide accurate information on population trends. Usually, waterbird monitoring is difficult, as nesting grounds are usually located in inaccessible reedbed, and by eye detection of cryptic species is hard. Drones have the capacity to overcome most of these problems, as they can provide with an aerial view of places otherwise unreachable, while reducing the disturbance and time spent in the field. The present study aims to compare the accuracy, disturbance levels, and managerial efficiency between ground (traditional) and drone counts of a cryptic species, the Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. Traditional monitoring methods were only capable of detecting 35% of the nesting pairs detected by the drone surveys (8.0 ± 11.8 versus 22.9 ± 38.2 nesting pairs in ground and drone surveys, respectively). Consequently, colony size estimates between methods showed poor agreement, to the point that traditional methods missed colonies otherwise detected by the drone. No apparent negative effects on nesting pairs where found when flying the drone. In addition, mean time spent to survey breeding sites with a drone was far less than with the traditional approach, down to a six-fold time reduction. This reduction, together with a lack of disturbance observed when conducting the drone monitoring, and an increasing monitoring precision and accuracy, supports the use of drones as the least invasive option for studies on population monitoring on hardly accessible sites.
Discussions of beyond-human worlds have primarily considered post-anthropocentric models in response to climatic breakdown. However, we must also account for an increasingly techno-mediated experience in the landscape of everyday life through emerging pervasive and ubiquitous robotics in the built environment, particularly drones and their wider social impact. This paper presents two methods of understanding: speculative ontography for more-than-human understanding and design fiction as an alternate and heterogeneous world-building task that moves beyond corporate technological visions and “captured” futures. These methods are set in context with two specific diegetic prototypes: “Game of Drones,” a drone-gamified civic enforcement tool, and “Drone Logi*,” a drone logistics game for more-than-human alternative visions. The design fiction approaches develop an understanding of emerging robotic sentience within broader constellations and services.
Geese, swans and ducks (Anatidae) are thought to avoid the sound of UAV rotor blades. In this study we measured the reactions of flocks of Anatidae to prerecorded UAV rotor sounds. The sound levels heard by Anatidae flocks were estimated using distance attenuation models of UAV rotor sounds. Our results indicated that rotor sounds below about 50 dB were not a primary avoidance factor, whereas avoidance behavior was triggered mainly by the visual impact of the UAV. However, if rotor sounds are louder than 50 dB, they may trigger avoidance by Anatidae.
Unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs), or "drones," are increasingly used as a tool for cetacean research, but knowledge about how these tools contribute to underwater sound is lacking. In this study, underwater sound levels of three commonly used UAV models (Mavic Pro Platinum, Phantom 4 Pro v2.0, Inspire 1 Pro) were recorded. For each model, three replicate flights were conducted at 36 positions at standardized horizontal (0-30 m) and vertical (2-40 m) distances from a hydrophone (1 m depth). Median broadband received levels of the Inspire were highest at 96.5 dBrms 141-17 783 Hz re 1 μPa2, followed by the Phantom (92.4 dBrms 141-17 783 Hz re 1 μPa2) and Mavic, which was quietest (85.9 dBrms 141-17 783 Hz re 1 μPa2). Median ambient sound levels in the absence of an UAV were 82.7 dBrms 141-17 783 Hz re 1 μPa2. Significant increases in ambient sound levels associated with UAV flights occurred at higher altitudes than previously reported, and received levels decreased more with increasing horizontal distance of the UAV than with altitude. To minimize potential noise impacts on sensitive marine animal subjects, we recommend increasing horizontal distance to the animal, rather than altitude, and choosing the quietest UAV feasible.
Full-text available
Since the turn of the century, emerging unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have found increasingly diverse applications in wildlife science as convenient, very high-resolution remote sensing devices. Achieved or conceptualized applications include optical surveying and observation of animals, autonomous wildlife telemetry tracking, and habitat research and monitoring. As the technology continues to progress and interest from the wildlife science community grows, there may yet be much untapped potential for UAS to contribute to the discipline. We present a review of the published primary literature on the application of UAS in wildlife science and related fields. This is followed by a systematic review of the broader wildlife science literature published since the turn of the century to assess where UAS are likely to make important contributions going forward based on the trends that have emerged thus far. UAS, in particular small lightweight models, are generally well suited for collecting data at an intermediate spatial scale between what is easily coverable on the ground and what is economically coverable with conventional aircraft. They are particularly useful for monitoring wildlife and habitats in places that are difficult to access or navigate from the ground, as well as approaching sensitive or aggressive species.
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Wildlife biology applications of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are extensive. Survey, identification, and measurement using UAS equipped with appropriate sensors can now be added to the suite of techniques available for monitoring animals – here we detail our experiences in using UAS to obtain detailed information from groups of seals, which can be difficult to observe from land. Trial flights to survey gray and harbor seals using a range of different platforms and imaging systems have been carried out with varying success at a number of sites in Scotland over the last two years. The best performing UAS system was determined by site, field situation, and the data required. Our systems routinely allow relative abundance, species, age–class, and individual identity to be obtained from images currently, with measures of body size also obtainable but open to refinement. However, the impacts of UAS on target species can also be variable and should be monitored closely. We found variable responses to UAS flights, possibly related to the animals’ experience of previous disturbance. The main part of our trials featured two UAS systems (i) Cinestar 6 and (ii) Vulcan 8 multicopters (n = 34 and 25, respectively, Table 1, Figs. 1a and 1b, respectively). The newer platform (Vulcan 8) uses slower Tiger motors and larger propellers offering an increase of 50%–100% on previous flying time, a critical factor in positioning and time over animals to obtain useful images. In general, the noise from UAS is related to the number of motors, and although positioning and speed of motors and propeller size and pitch have an effect, there was no doubt that the Vulcan 8 is noisier than the Cinestar 6.
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Regular monitoring of animal populations must be established to ensure wildlife protection, especially when pressure on animals is high. The recent development of drones or unmanned aircraft systems ( UAS s) opens new opportunities. UAS s have several advantages, including providing data at high spatial and temporal resolution, providing systematic, permanent data, having low operational costs and being low‐risk for the operators. However, UASs have some constraints, such as short flight endurance. We reviewed studies in which wildlife populations were monitored by using drones, described accomplishments to date and evaluated the range of possibilities UAS s offer to provide new perspectives in future research. We focused on four main topics: 1) the available systems and sensors; 2) the types of survey plan and detection possibilities; 3) contributions towards anti‐poaching surveillance; and 4) legislation and ethics. We found that small fixed‐wing UAS s are most commonly used because these aircraft provide a viable compromise between price, logistics and flight endurance. The sensors are typically electro‐optic or infrared cameras, but there is the potential to develop and test new sensors. Despite various flight plan possibilities, mostly classical line transects have been employed, and it would be of great interest to test new methods to adapt to the limitations of UAS s. Detection of many species is possible, but statistical approaches are unavailable if valid inventories of large mammals are the purpose. Contributions of UAS s to anti‐poaching surveillance are not yet well documented in the scientific literature, but initial studies indicate that this approach could make important contributions to conservation in the next few years. Finally, we conclude that one of the main factors impeding the use of UAS s is legislation. Restrictions in the use of airspace prevent researchers from testing all possibilities, and adaptations to the relevant legislation will be necessary in future.
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Guidelines for use of wild mammal species are updated from the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) 2007 publication. These revised guidelines cover current professional techniques and regulations involving mammals used in research and teaching. They incorporate additional resources, summaries of procedures, and reporting requirements not contained in earlier publications. Included are details on marking, housing, trapping, and collecting mammals. It is recommended that institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs), regulatory agencies, and investigators use these guidelines as a resource for protocols involving wild mammals. These guidelines were prepared and approved by the ASM, working with experienced professional veterinarians and IACUCs, whose collective expertise provides a broad and comprehensive understanding of the biology of nondomesticated mammals in their natural environments. The most current version of these guidelines and any subsequent modifications are available at the ASM Animal Care and Use Committee page of the ASM Web site (
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Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, are being increasingly used in ecological research, in particular to approach sensitive wildlife in inaccessible areas. Impact studies leading to recommendations for best practices are urgently needed. We tested the impact of drone colour, speed and flight angle on the behavioural responses of mallards Anas platyrhynchos in a semi-captive situation, and of wild flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) and common greenshanks (Tringa nebularia) in a wetland area. We performed 204 approach flights with a quadricopter drone, and during 80% of those we could approach unaffected birds to within 4 m. Approach speed, drone colour and repeated flights had no measurable impact on bird behaviour, yet they reacted more to drones approaching vertically. We recommend launching drones farther than 100 m from the birds and adjusting approach distance according to species. Our study is a first step towards a sound use of drones for wildlife research. Further studies should assess the impacts of different drones on other taxa, and monitor physiological indicators of stress in animals exposed to drones according to group sizes and reproductive status.
A quick guide on comparative thanatology, the study of death and dying, particular how individuals respond to a conspecific's death, across animal phylogeny.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have the potential to revolutionize the way research is conducted in many scientific fields [1, 2]. UAVs can access remote or difficult terrain [3], collect large amounts of data for lower cost than traditional aerial methods, and facilitate observations of species that are wary of human presence [4]. Currently, despite large regulatory hurdles [5], UAVs are being deployed by researchers and conservationists to monitor threats to biodiversity [6], collect frequent aerial imagery [7-9], estimate population abundance [4, 10], and deter poaching [11]. Studies have examined the behavioral responses of wildlife to aircraft [12-20] (including UAVs [21]), but with the widespread increase in UAV flights, it is critical to understand whether UAVs act as stressors to wildlife and to quantify that impact. Biologger technology allows for the remote monitoring of stress responses in free-roaming individuals [22], and when linked to locational information, it can be used to determine events [19, 23, 24] or components of an animal's environment [25] that elicit a physiological response not apparent based on behavior alone. We assessed effects of UAV flights on movements and heart rate responses of free-roaming American black bears. We observed consistently strong physiological responses but infrequent behavioral changes. All bears, including an individual denned for hibernation, responded to UAV flights with elevated heart rates, rising as much as 123 beats per minute above the pre-flight baseline. It is important to consider the additional stress on wildlife from UAV flights when developing regulations and best scientific practices. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Compassionate caretaking behaviour towards dying adult group members has been reported as being unique to humans and chimpanzees. Here we describe in detail the reaction of a wild dominant male common marmoset, a neotropical primate, to the accidental death of the dominant female of its group. The male exhibited behaviours towards the dying female that resembled those of chimpanzees and humans. The long-term relationship between the dominant pair (which lasted at least 3.5 years) and their social status in the group may have contributed to the male's behavioural response. The male prevented young individuals from approaching the dying female, behaviour previously observed in chimpanzees. The data provide an interesting insight into compassionate caretaking behaviours in New World primates as well as the pair-bond systems of common marmosets. These are rare observations, and thus their detailed descriptions are essential if we are to create a comparative and enhanced understanding of human and nonhuman primate thanatology.