Volunteers helped the scientists carry out the Epic Duck Challenge © Jarrod Hodgson
An Epic Duck Challenge organised by researchers at the University of Adelaide tested the capability of drones.
During the experiment, thousands of plastic ducks were placed on a beach and counted using modern and traditional methods.
The study found that drones generated more accurate population data than information collected the old-fashioned way.
PhD student Jarrod Hodgson says, “Drone-derived data was between 43 per cent and 96 per cent more accurate than ground count.”
The pilotless aircraft are already being used by many ecologists to gather data on species and research is being conducted on how their presence impacts wildlife.
“The world is rapidly changing, with many negative outcomes for wildlife,” adds Hodgson. “Drones can help scientists and managers gather data fast enough to enable timely assessment of the implications of these changes.”
Read the full paper in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine