Currently, investing time to study in biological sciences seems to be very tiring because the ways in which data used to be gathered and statistics collated is still in use, making it very difficult, energy-sapping, and time consuming for ecologists and wildlife biologists to readily obtain important readings, values, facts, and figures that would otherwise help their work grow faster. A professor of electrical engineering, Paul Fikkema, also sympathized with the plight of these scientists by claiming that the present technology that these people have on ground can produce low sample sizes alongside the other limitations already listed. To achieve better results, something needs to be done about that.
On this note, the Northern Arizona University researchers have recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to find ways in which the drone technology may be developed such that animals may be found in the wild with tiny tags that would be transmitting data. With this technology in full swing, there will be a rapid boost in the ability of researchers to track wildlife, no matter how small they might be.
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Carol Chambers, a professor who has specialized in and invested a lot of years into the study of bats, is an example of a person who can benefit from these trackers. With the attachment of a small radio transmitter to the bodies of these bats, they can be allowed to fly away and the researchers can then track the signal given off by the transmitter, most times being through rugged terrain.
“It could make our work more efficient because people won’t have to drive around for days searching for transmitters, often hiking long distances and up to the top of hills and mountains to find bat roosts” admits Chambers, whose primary work is now based on protecting the maternity roosts of bats.
Michael Shaffer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who happens to be named on the recent grant by the NFS with Fikkema and Chambers said, “Better and faster is what we are shooting for”.
“We will help these wildlife trackers do their jobs and improve information gathering. Instead of using hand or pole mounted antennas, we will put them in a UAV that can go up hundreds of feet and leverage the tree dimensional flight capabilities to more easily locate the radio tag signals”.
The capabilities that the NAU’s drone technology has in the tracking of wildlife will make the UAV become such virtual poles that would be able to fly many feet into the air instead of handheld poles. Wildlife biologists do not have a problem studying bigger animals because of GPS capable tags, but these kind of sensors would prove too heavy for such small animals as bats, birds, and the likes, creating the need for small transmitting tags.