Drones in environmental consultancy

Dun Deardail Fort from 100m altitude

Dun Deardail Fort from 100m altitude

Following on from our recent article on the benefits of drones for undertaking bat surveys, we have successfully used our drones for other environmental applications.

Archaeology

During survey work in Fort William, Scotland, we used our drone to capture footage of an Iron Age hillfort in Glen Nevis. Dun Deardail Fort is thought to be around 2000 years old and is now demarcated by a raised vitrified boundary around a shallow depression. The site has been subject to recent archaeological investigations, the outlines of which are visible from the aerial shots.

It is possible that drones may be more than a tool to record the progress of excavations, they may be invaluable in identifying features which may not be visible from ground level.

Dun Deardail Fort history

Dun Deardail Fort history

Dun Deardail Fort from 100m altitude

Dun Deardail Fort from 100m altitude

Archaeological surveys (Dun Deardhail Fort)

Archaeological surveys (Dun Deardhail Fort)

Inside Dun Deardhail

Inside Dun Deardhail

Nest Monitoring

To determine the contents of some buzzard nests we positioned our drone over two different nests and took a series of still images and video. Although we were confident chicks were present, it was not possible to see how many solely from ground observations. Whilst we could have climbed the tree we wanted to avoid disturbing the birds and see if we could get the same information in less time. Both nests were found to contain chicks which subsequently fledged a few weeks later.

Nest monitoring

Nest monitoring

Close up of buzzard nest (3 chicks present)

Close up of buzzard nest (3 chicks present)

Future Work

It is clear that canopy cover can limit the quality of still images but this was overcome with the capture of some short video clips. Chick movement can be seen on playback and was used to count individuals. While we investigated buzzard nests it is likely to be of greater value in assessing nest contents of species which nest in the open, in tree tops, pylons or rocky ledges. Drones could also capture images of species more sensitive to human disturbance.

It is acknowledged that this application has to take account of species listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) as specific survey licences are likely to be required.

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