It’s a Bird AND a Plane…Observe Unmanned Aerial Survey Flight Set to Count Sandhill Cranes at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are routinely used by the military for reconnaissance and combat missions. However, government researchers are now testing the feasibility of using UAS technology developed by the Department of Defense as a conservation tool to survey migratory bird populations here in North America. This groundbreaking research is the first of its kind.

Media are invited to observe a demonstration of UAS and a presentation of the ongoing research the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are conducting to test UAS as a means of surveying migratory birds. The goal is to test UAS technology by surveying migratory Sandhill Cranes roosting on the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

The Monte Vista NWR serves as a stopover point for cranes during their northward and southward migrations each year. Birds using the Refuge primarily nest in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and spend winters in New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico. However, some cranes that visit the Refuge may nest as far away as Alaska and western Siberia.

When:  Weather permitting, Thurs., March 22, 2012 from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. MST.

Where: Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the San Luis Valley of Colorado

What’s the purpose of the research?

  • To test the feasibility of employing UAS to survey and monitor wildlife.

What will media be able to watch, photograph and film?

  • Media will have the opportunity to observe a UAS in flight, hopefully view thousands of Sandhill Cranes, see a presentation of the research findings thus far, and speak with the researchers involved in this project.

Safety Considerations: Access to flight areas will be controlled by Refuge staff for the safety of observers.