Drones were first used to help researchers on the Raine Island Recovery Project track and count the number of turtles migrating across the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia’s northeastern coast.
Not long ago, researchers counted the number of turtles in the ocean from a boat by painting a white stripe on their shell.
Thanks to the video footage, which was captured in December 2019 by a drone, it was possible to identify over 60,000 female turtles who migrate to the island of Raine where they lay their eggs.
To make data collection even easier in the future, instead of manually counting turtles, the research team hopes to count them automatically by analyzing the video and then using artificial intelligence.
Dr. Andrew Dunstan of the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said his idea of counting turtles and how drones are helping us a lot.
“Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in difficult conditions was difficult. The use of a drone is simpler, safer, much more precise and the data can be archived immediately and permanently. In the future, we will be able to automate these counts from video footage using artificial intelligence so that the computer does the math for us. “
Richard Fitzpatrick of the Biopixel Oceans Foundation added that the use of a drone to count turtles in the ocean has significantly changed a team effort into an individual operation that can be performed in less than an hour thanks to the drone.
Scientists with a turtle on Raine Island. Photo credit: Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Certainly, this research has opened up a new world on these animals, but also on data collection methods.
While drones were found to be the best way to detect and count turtles, researchers also found that using an Osmo action was a perfect alternative for counting underwater turtles.