The West African coast is a very important breeding and feeding area for large numbers of colonial breeding seabirds. The area is very productive and rich in fish. However, the number of breeding islands are few and they are threatened by floods, erosion and human disturbance. It is crucial to monitor the numbers and distributions of these birds to be able to provide adequate protection. It is, however, challenging to obtain accurate counts without disturbing the colonies. Within the context of this ongoing project we have developed UAV-based methodology to count the number of nests in the huge colonies of breeding seabirds in general and Royal terns (Thalasseus maximus) specifically. The project is in collaboration with BirdLife International.
Use a drone to map the colony while avoiding disturbance as much as possible. Particularly, to obtain high-quality imagery and to determine flight parameters such as elevation, speed, take-off and landing distances from the colony.
Establish target area, fly data collection missions, determine the level of disturbance by scoring behaviour of birds, produce maps of the collected images.
We determined the optimal flight elevation which provided sufficient detailed imagery while the disturbance was kept at a minimum. The flight was performed at an altitude of 20m above ground at a speed of 2 m/sec. These parameters provided good results.
Above Royal tern colony at Ansoukala island in the Saloum delta in Senegal. The entire colony is reconstructed by stitching of individual pictures taken with our UAV.