Use of Drones in Avian Conservation: Exploring the Use of Commercially Available Drones in Wetlands Shorebird Population Monitoring
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The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, can provide a highly valuable tool in a range of wildlife studies. Applications in wetlands shorebird monitoring have yet to be explored in depth; this study pioneered the use of drones for shorebird monitoring in a protected area within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, the potentially disruptive presence of UAVs must not be discounted when considering their use. The flushing responses of shorebirds to UAV flights at various altitudes and speeds were recorded. Lower altitude and faster speeds were positively correlated with flushing rates. Smaller-sized shorebirds were 33 times more likely to flush than larger-sized shorebirds. Flying at 15 meters in altitude may prevent flushing but may also result in inadequate resolution of small-sized shorebirds for purposes of identification. Further research in the use and application of UAVs in shorebird monitoring would be prudent to better understand the reactivity of shorebirds to UAV disturbance and to better design a methodology which prevents and minimizes impacts of stress to shorebird subjects.