Drones: A Case for Conservation

by Leah Feor

Conservation Drone

It wasn’t until recently that drones really entered my radar.  In the past, I simply associated them with combat missions and delivery services.

However just a few short months ago, I started to read about drones for reforestation and for reducing deforestation.  While the idea of planting trees with drones will take some getting used to, when I heard about drones for conservation purposes, I was convinced from the start.

By monitoring forests with drones, community members can capture the images and data required to better understand issues facing local ecosystems.  This information also serves for global education and awareness on matters of endangered species, illegal poaching, and how products for personal consumption are enabling mass deforestation

To think, something so small can make such a big impact.  In an effort to learn more about these unmanned aircrafts that support conservation efforts, I did a little bit a research and found a great TED Talk on the topic. Lian Pin Koh, an Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, works with drones to survey wildlife and so much more.

In his talk, he helps the public better understand what a drone is by breaking down its parts and components. 

Now people I talk to are often surprised when they hear that these are the only four components that make a conservation drone, but they are even more surprised when I tell them how affordable these components are. “

If you take a model aircraft, add an autopilot system, insert a camera or video recorder, and program it to tell it where to go, you’ve got a conservation drone!  For about the price of a good laptop, you can invest in a technology that will help with conservation efforts in so many different ways:

  • Look at remote areas to survey for an animal or its nest;
  • Monitor the health of wildlife habitats;
  • Identify agricultural expansion – a major driver in deforestation;
  • Identify illegal logging and poaching activities;
  • Create a map of the landscape by stitching the images together;
  • Create 3D forest models to analyze the health of the forest.

These are just a few of the features that are offered up by unmanned aircrafts.  Check out this video to learn more.


Although this technology is relatively new, given all of its benefits, the demand for drones by conservation agencies of all sizes will soon enough take flight.

Have you ever used a conservation drone in the field?  We’d love to hear from you – comment below or connect on social media.


Leah Feor
Leah Feor


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