Lian Pin (L) is next to Simon, ConservationDrones.org’s technical director. Government personnel are
learning to pilot drones in Belize.
test drones for many uses. Organizations and researchers
worldwide have started using them for different purposes.
Detecting and photographing birds has been enhanced
by the use of drones. Jarrod Hodgson and Rohan Clarke are
researchers at Monash University in Australia. They used a
multirotor to assess nest densities of birds on the ground and
in trees. Nest checks can be more easily performed with a
drone than in person, although great caution is warranted not
to disturb chicks.
Bat researchers have used drones to detect bat sounds at
night by suspending a recording
device from a quadcopter. Using
the drone allows researchers to
record data in locations where
there are no structures to mount
a recording device, and to easily
move the recording device to new
Other animals that have been
monitored using drones include
turtles, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
New applications are arising all
the time. ConservationDrones.org
currently has plans to start a flight
school, where researchers can be
trained on the type of drone to use
for their needs and the equipment
necessary for the job they want
to perform. The school will also
include information on how to
program the drone, and how to
download data from the drone or
stream it back to a computer while
the aircraft is in flight.
US Drone Regulations
In the US, drones are getting a bad reputation for near
misses with passenger airplanes and irresponsible use by
a small number of people. In turn, FAA regulations have
It is difficult to obtain an airworthiness certificate to fly
drones, forcing scientists who want to use them for research
to set up studies in foreign countries. They can’t teach their
students in the US how to use them to gather data.
“I can understand how tempting and thrilling it is to fly
high above the clouds, or close to people and property,” said
Lian Pin, “so I do see the risk of having many inexperienced
pilots operating over populated areas, and agree with the need
for some form of safeguard to avoid causing harm to people
and property. After the proper regulatory framework is put
in place, drones could be a hugely important technology for a
wide variety of applications.”
Lian Pin is busy these days, “I hardly get to do recreational
flights anymore. My go-to aircraft for fun nowadays is a 250-
size mini quadcopter for FPV that I fly among the eucalyptus
trees in my backyard!” It’s fun, but also another great tool to
use in the field.
Watch for this organization to continue to transform
conservation research around the world. Lian Pin shared
that ConservationDrones.org is working with the US-based
group Conservation International to help start programs in
other countries that would use drones to map and monitor
habitats and wildlife. ConservationDrones.org was a finalist
for the 2014 Tech Awards presented by The Tech Museum of
Innovation in San Jose, California.
To learn more about ConservationDrones.org, its founders,
and the projects the organization is aiding, visit its website.
Fellow hobbyists can support this organization by donating
spare parts for research via the website, or by getting
involved in the development of new features for both
ConservationDrones.org and DIY Drones.
Do you specialize in a field that could aid drone design? This
is an exciting opportunity to give your input on improving
drones for research!
Lian Pin Koh
Tropical Conservation Science
AMA Government Relations
35 Model Aviation APRIL 2015 www.ModelAviation.com