New research from University of Highlands and Islands, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Plymouth and Marine Scotland Science published in August 2022 takes a first glance into comparing land-based vantage points (VP) and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) to quantify animal abundance and distribution.

As marine renewable energy developments are increasing at a rapid rate, the understanding and comparison of emerging technologies to traditional methods are essential to the future of surveying techniques. Coctagliola-Ray et al. delves into what is described as “a disconnect between research and the use of UAV-derived data for ecological management and monitoring”, highlighting a lack of guidelines and knowledge, particularly in comparison to traditional land-based methods. This study aims to be “a crucial first step” providing the required knowledge of the EIA process to effectively go further with the analysis of this emerging technology. Results of the comparison showed UAV surveys are feasible for the assessment of seabird abundance although are highly dependent on specific needs of the monitoring. Target species and behaviour, selected area, duration, and budget are recognised as defining factors when choosing between these two surveying methods.

To Fly or not to Fly comparison of vanatage points Ireland

Figure 1: Map showing the study location within the Narrows, a dynamic tidal channel located in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, UK. a) Overview map showing the study area within the Narrows, highlighted by the red circle. b) Location of the survey area, including vantage point (VP) locations (Points 1–4) with associated elevation above sea level shown in metres, and UAV take-off location (Point 5) on the eastern shore of the Narrows. The island symbol within the survey (not to scale) represents the location of Walter’s Rock. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

For more information see full paper below:

To fly or not to fly? Comparing vantage point and uncrewed aerial vehicle surveys for assessments of seabird abundance and fine-scale distribution