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VTOL drone WingtraOne used in wildlife research to cuts risk, cost and time

Last updated on

August 11, 2018


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    Murdoch University in Australia recently undertook a UAV solution evaluation due to their need to monitor endangered sea mammals. This evaluation led them to the WingtraOne VTOL.

    Dr Christopher Cleguer and Dr Amanda Hodgson were led to the WingtraOne to help them monitor an endangered species of sea mammal called the Dugong. A drone is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to monitoring endangered animals, but in this case, they were led to the Wingtra to help them.

    The recent rise in extreme heat events and cyclones has meant the Dugong’s natural habitat is under threat. Due to their declining population, the Dugong is now listed as being vulnerable to extinction globally.

    Considerable efforts have been made by scientists and research managers to preserve the species. These efforts have, however, been hindered by lack of resource, high cost and the expertise required. Technology has been created to allow them to monitor the species, however, the need for a cost-effective way to collect actual images of the Dugong came to light recently.

    Enter Aerial Surveying

    Aerial surveying has been used for a number of decades to monitor the Dugong’s declining population. Traditionally, highly trained teams of observers have conducted the surveys on board planes. However, 11 people have died from marine aerial surveys, so a safer solution needed to be found. The resolution of the data collected from the surveys is also not worth the risk to human life.

    With these constraints in mind, the team at Murdoch University decided to evaluate VTOL UAV solutions. This would allow them to access locations only accessible by boat, and provide a safer alternative. Not only that, but it would also provide more accurate data, and prove far more cost-effective. VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) drones can simply take off from the deck of a boat, with no danger to human life.

    The researchers selected the WingtraOne VTOL and DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro to undertake their research. The Wingtra’s endurance and range allowed it to cover large areas, and gather a large amount of data.

    The Ultimate Solution

    The VTOL capabilities of the WingtraOne combined with its high endurance, range and sensor capabilities enabled the University researchers to collect data over a large area. They managed this whilst still retaining the image quality they required to detect dugongs.

    Dr Cleguer stated: 

    “We needed a drone that could cover as much area as possible in one flight, while being able to be operated from a boat, by us as researchers, and was within our budget. With a price tag of less than $30,000, the WingtraOne met all these requirements.

    Over the three week trip to test their methods, the research team conducted more than 90 flights and collected over 25,000 images, most of which were processed during the trip using the “Dugong Detector” but also through manually reviewing the images. This ultra-rapid method meant that the research team could create maps of dugong sightings and densities in just a few days. Previously this had taken several weeks.”

    He continued:

    This kind of technology would be accessible to scientists in developing countries who wanted to conduct surveys of species, and don’t have access to teams of expert observers or the budget to charter planes”

    The WingtraOne is one of the best surveying drones currently on the market, and this use case gives evidence to that. It’s cost-effective, and as these researchers have shown is also a far safer option. It combines the VTOL nature of a quadcopter with the durability and reliability of a fixed-wing drone. The WingtraOne is the future, and it won’t be long before we see more and more use cases.

    Read more here about the WingtraOne VTOL.

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