Aerial drone to monitor Maui's dolphins
Wed, 11 Jul 2012 1:17p.m.
A university is using an aerial "drone" to help monitor the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.
AUT University acquired the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), more widely used for military intelligence, from Palmerston North company Skycam with the aim of helping conservation efforts.
AUT microbiologist Professor John Brooks says the drone will be used in partnership with the Department of Conservation to monitor the Maui's dolphin, of which there are an estimated 55 adults remaining.
It will also be used for mapping island vegetation restoration, mapping the rehabilitation of mining sites, and monitoring sea bird populations.
"Conservation is so pivotal to New Zealand's cultural identity," Professor Brooks says.
"Using this high-tech equipment will help us to better understand and manage our environment and population numbers. It will also help to advance conservation research in New Zealand."
Professor Brooks wouldn't say how much the drone cost due to reasons of commercial sensitivity, but did say "the university has made a significant investment".
The drone was expected to be ready by the early weeks of September, Professor Brooks says.
He said AUT was the first university in New Zealand to use the technology specifically for conservation.
Geographic information systems expert Dr Barbara Bollard-Breen says the remote sensing capability of the drone will provide AUT and the Department of Conservation greater capacity for habitat mapping and marine and terrestrial surveillance.
"The UAV gives us the opportunity to look very closely at parts of the environment that would only be possible using low resolution satellite imagery," she said.
"It also allows us to canvass a far wider area than is physically possible from the ground and gather more accurate environmental data and information about our natural resources."
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11/07/2012 6:43:38 p.m.
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