Two conservation scientists have equipped a remote-controlled aircraft with cameras and GPS to gather images of hard-to-reach landscapes for conservation efforts. Lian Pin Koh, an ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, and Serge Wich, a biologist at the University of Zurich and research director at international conservation nonprofit PanEco, hope to use their conservation drone to assist the mapping of deforestation and to help count endangered species in places with difficult terrain, such as parts of Africa and Indonesia. Their work has the potential to enhance conservation projects currently underway at Duke.
In addition to aiding researchers’ work, Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke chair of conservation ecology at the Nicholas School, sees conservation drones as having utility for crowdsourcing efforts. Conservation drones can take thousands of photographs, which researchers can stitch together and put online for public viewing. “You want to get people engaged in counting them—the more eyes the better,” he said. “The idea will be to get people to be sort of virtual park rangers.”