UgCS Drone Fleet Software program helps rely penguin chicks

A close-up of chicks from the ground, taken a few days before the survey (c) Annie Schmidt / Point Blue

What one drone can do, several drones can do faster. Scientists were able to use multiple UAVs managed by SPH Engineering’s UgCS drone fleet software to survey one of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world in less than 3 hours.

The UgCS drone fleet software has been used for everything from drone light shows to geospatial applications. Scientists from Stanford University, Point Blue Conservation Science and Conservation Metrics were able to use the UgCS software to develop a system for the autonomous measurement of a huge colony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica. Using multiple drones, the project, which would have taken 3 days, was completed in a fraction of the time. “Thousands of high-resolution images were taken in every survey,” the press release said. These images are used with a Conservation Metrics (AI) model that is currently being developed to automatically identify and count adult penguins and their chicks.

‘Using UgCS and a custom route planning algorithm (Stanford), our team efficiently photographed over 300,000 breeding pairs of penguins in Cape Crozier, Antarctica. Ultimately, these surveys will provide a comprehensive assessment of penguin populations and breeding success, key metrics for monitoring the health of the Antarctic marine ecosystem, ”said Annie Schmidt, researcher at Point Blue Conservation Science.

Drone image taken during a survey to count the chicks (the gray, fluffy penguins) in mid-January 2021 (© Point Blue)

The first image shows the raw image of the drone and the second image enlarges the same image to show the view when training the counting model.

From the press release:

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted under the Antarctic Conservation Act Permit #ACA 2020-005. A multi-drone imaging system was tested in Antarctica in 2020.

SPH Engineering supports penguin studies as part of its global UgCS education program. In 2020, UgCS was used by over 250 universities worldwide in the fields of environment, archeology, geophysics, engineering, agriculture, biology and many other fields of application.

Miriam McNabb is Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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