The Department of Environment and Heritage is investigating whether drones will be cheaper and safer than putting staff on a helicopter to monitor the Macquarie Marshes wetlands.
It’s starting a trial of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in the Marshes this week.
Wetlands conservation officer, Tim Hosking, says the hexacopter will be able to access areas that ground staff are unable to get to.
He says it will be cheaper and safer than putting staff onto planes.
“It won’t mean to replace staff but it will mean we can use our staff resources more effectively in effect and collect more quantitative data rather than relying on a bit of guess work or putting expensive choppers up in the air,” he said.
Mr Hosking, says the unmanned aircraft will take photographs, film and gather data about the marshes and can cover areas that are difficult for ground staff to access.
“We’ll be collecting a range of footage but from that we can gain stills which we can then convert into data.
“We’ll also be able to create three-dimensional models of the area it flies over and there’s also the opportunity later to collect infra-red and possibly thermal data as well.
“We don’t quite know if it will work where we’re going but we’re willing to give it a go.”
He says it is a relatively new use for drones.
“It’s a very new type of purpose for UAV’s, although it’s used a lot in the United States to monitor birds and other animals over there, it seems to be not widely used in Australia just yet although there’s more uses for it down the coast for coastal dunes and those sorts of things,” he said.
“It’s a real evolving thing for environmental monitoring.”
It’s hoped the hexacopter will help giver department staff a clear picture of what happens with waterbird breeding and vegetation prior to, during and after flooding events.