Island Conservation Advancing Drone Technology to Save Threatened Wildlife


Inside Unmanned Systems highlights advancements in drone technology that are making it possible for Island Conservation and others to increase the scale and pace of restoration and protect wildlife.

In recent years, drone technology has rapidly transformed and become more accessible across the board. Equipped with specialized cameras and increased carrying-capacity, drones are being used to help protect wildlife, monitor threatened populations, evaluate critical habitat, and even restoring entire islands by removing invasive species. Advances in drone technology and collaboration between conservationists and innovators are opening a whole world of possibility, enabling practitioners to more effectively and efficiently protect animals and ecosystems.

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Wildlife and ecosystems around the world such as the Galapagos Gull can benefit from the conservation applications of drone technology. Credit: Andrew Wright/Island Conservation

In 2019, Island Conservation and the Galapagos National Park were presented with an opportunity to pursue drones as a new approach to invasive species removal when rats were detected on the small Galapagos Islands of Seymour Norte and Mosquera. Along with New Zealand’s Environment and Conservation Technologies LTD, two heavy-lift drones were developed, tested, and deployed. Invasive species removal requires the dispersal of conservation bait across an island, typically either by hand or a helicopter equipped with a dispersal bucket and flown by a trained pilot.

Drone soars over Seymour Norte Island during the 2019 operation to remove invasive rats. Credit: Andrew Wright/Island Conservation

“Increasing the scale of drone applications will require a larger drone with higher payload capacity, longer endurance and the ability to autonomously follow complex coastlines and steep, rocky terrain.”

Restoration on Seymour Norte serves as a proof-of-concept for the use of drones in invasive species removal. Still, increased investment is necessary to advance drone development and pave the way to restore larger and more complex island ecosystems.

Source: Inside Unmanned Systems



Author Details


Emily Heber


Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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Emily Heber


Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.



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