ODFW, OSU researchers use drones to track elk - KPTV - FOX 12

ODFW, OSU researchers use drones to track elk

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Researchers at Oregon State University are using drone technology to learn more about elk near the Oregon coast range.

Jonathan Burnett and Cory Garms are both Ph.D. students IN the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at OSU, and they operate the drones using a hand-held remote that allows them to count and study elk in the area.

The researchers’ field test of the systems in Clatsop County was the first use of drones to count elk in Oregon. State officials have used drones in the past to survey salmon spawning and cormorant populations along the coast.

The drones use an infrared camera that helps researchers distinguish between elk calves and adults.

Each flight lasts about 30 minutes, and the drones automatically return to their start location when their battery is low.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife currently uses helicopters that are contracted out by the state at costs upwards of $1,000 per hour. The purchase of a drone and thermal sensor is a one-time expense of $5,200.

The drones follow GPS coordinates automatically, though a pilot can override the controls. There also must be a spotter that maintains visual contact with the drones.

"This technology demonstration is one small step in bridging the gap between what we currently can do and what we ultimately want to do," Burnett said.

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