Mixed results for wetlands drone trial


The Office of Environment and Heritage says a trial program using drone technology to monitor the Macquarie Marshes wetlands, in the New South Wales north west, has had mixed results.

Two types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) were used to take film and photographs of the Marshes, west of Coonamble, to see if it would be a cheaper and safer way to monitor the area rather than sending staff up in a helicopter.

Wetlands conservation officer, Tim Hosking, says there were problems with line-of-sight restrictions as well as the amount of data that can be gained from the films.

“The fixed wing one just took snap-shots from above the ground and it really does allow us to perhaps capture quite good data on what’s going on, still shots,” he said.

“Whereas the video one, and the hexacopter in terms of quality of video it’s great but probably not able to use it as easily for scientific work.”

He also says some birds of prey started attacking one of the drones.

“No, not much damage I figure they were just tyring to hustle them away from their territory.

“There’s possibly a nest nearby that we didn’t know about and it was just too risky to operate in those sort of conditions.”

Mr Hosking says significant issues need to be overcome before the department will adopt drone technology.

However, staff will continue to look at other options to monitor the wetlands.

“We kind of had hoped there’d be a better more concrete kind of technology for us to use at this stage and I think there’s still some value in thinking about it but the costs and challenges were too much for us to adopt straight away for our purposes, our operational purposes but we do trial other technology.”