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Keeping a Closer Eye on Seabirds with Drones

Detecting birds in drone images.

A Duke University-led research team is using drones and artificial intelligence to monitor the health and size of remote colonies of black-browed albatrosses and southern rockhopper penguins in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

Credit: Madeline Hayes/Duke University

Using drones and artificial intelligence to monitor seabird colonies is less expensive, labor-intensive, and error-prone than on-the-ground surveillance, according to a study by scientists at Duke University, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), North Carolina State University, and Falklands Conservation.

The researchers analyzed over 10,000 drone photos of mixed seabird colonies in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands off Argentina's coast using a deep learning algorithm, which identified and counted albatrosses in the colonies with 97% accuracy, and penguins with 87% accuracy.

In all, the researchers found the automated counts were within 5% of human counts about 90% of the time.

Said Duke’s Madeline C. Hayes said, “Using drone surveys and deep learning gives us an alternative that is remarkably accurate, less disruptive, and significantly easier.”

From Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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