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Attenuation of Responses of Waterbirds to Repeat Drone Surveys Involving a Sequence of Altitudes and Drone Types: A Case Study

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posted on 2023-08-24, 05:00 authored by Lachlan HowellLachlan Howell, Blake M Allan, Don DriscollDon Driscoll, Daniel IerodiaconouDaniel Ierodiaconou, Todd A Doran, Mike WestonMike Weston
Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, or ‘drones’ hereafter) have potential for surveying waterbird species and habitats, but there is a risk that the disturbance from drones could compromise count accuracy and bird welfare. We examined the response of 16 waterbird species to repeated up-and-back overhead drone flights (n = 50 flights) at multiple flight heights (80, 60, 40 and 20 m) using three common drone platforms (DJI Matrice 300, DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and DJI Phantom 4). A ground observer scored the species’ responses to overhead drone flights, which ranged from no response (no change to initial behavior), vigilance (head turning and tracking), movement within the site (swimming, diving, flight into or on the water) and substantial flight resulting in departure from the pond (fleeing). A total of 280 waterbird encounters with overhead drones were observed. The most common response across all flights was no response (70.7%), followed by vigilance (27.5%), whereas more intense responses were comparatively rare (1.8%). The responses were of higher intensity during earlier overhead drone flights, before moderating substantially during later flights. Thus, our case study provides the first unambiguous evidence of the attenuation of responses of bird species to drones.

History

Journal

Drones

Volume

7

Pagination

497-497

ISSN

2504-446X

eISSN

2504-446X

Language

en

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Issue

8

Publisher

MDPI AG

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