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Araracanga. Photo: Haroldo Palo Jr.

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27 abr 2016
:Articles:

Drones at work for nature preservation

Technology is more efficient and cheaper; Researchers intend to adapt methods to encourage applying the technique to preservation

The new initiative will use drones to monitor protected areas and improve the safety of Brazilian biodiversity
Credit: Zig Koch
It is ever more usual to look to the skies and find unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs or drones. The latter type of aircraft, generally smaller than an UAV, has been originally designed for military purposes, but due to public engagement has found uses both in leisure and professionally by photographers, farmers and public agents. With the goal of applying this new technology to the preservation of important remaining natural areas, Brazilian NGO Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Preservation has decided to support a project for using drones in monitoring Protected Areas in the Araucaria Forest region, an ecosystem commonly found in Paraná, a state in Southern Brazil.

“Some of the key challenges for PA managers are properly monitoring and inspecting these wide areas, since human and financial resources for those activities are usually scarce in Brazil,” points the Boticário Group Foundation CEO, Malu Nunes. She highlights that, in this scenario, it is urgent to develop new strategies and tools to enable the effective protection of those areas. “The initiative of using drones will pave the way for more researchers to apply this and other technological advances to improve the protection of Brazilian biodiversity,” she completed.

The project will be conducted at the Araucárias Biological Reserve (Rebio) and at National Park Campos Gerais, protected areas located at the Ponta Grossa region in Paraná. Some of the last remnants of natural fields and araucária forests in the country are found there.

According to the lead researcher, Prof. Dr. Carlos Hugo Rocha, the project aims to contribute to the effective preservation of those areas, which concentrate some of the most important natural remnants in the Campos Gerais region in Paraná. Furthermore, the research has two other key goals. The first is using this technology to more effectively monitor the hardest-to-reach regions at Rebio. The second is creating a methodology for using drones in monitoring protected areas that can be applied in other regions. “This way, we allow the creation of a work system that may, in the future, contribute to other PAs and be improved as it is used,” the researcher explained.

Monitoring history
Rocha says that a previous mapping project for natural remnants in those PAs was conducted based on high-resolution satellite images, and now, with drones, they can reach even further, allowing for the integral monitoring of landscapes. “We have raised temporal data on land use for these PAs since 1952, when the first aerial photographs of Paraná were taken, and have been able to determine what are the most preserved areas, and consequently the ones that must be monitored with particular attention,” he says.

Normally, the most intact areas within a protected area are hard to reach, which makes them difficult to monitor frequently. In this scenario, drones will have a key role, as they can reach these regions with greater ease and speed.