Drones don’t have the best reputation in the media, partly because some people fly them in stupid places but mostly because the media loves to report anything negative. What you don’t hear much about is the positive use of drones, and surprisingly, there are quite a few, such as a Kickstarter project to develop an airborne demining system to clear all land mines around the world in less than 10 years.
I was contacted out the blue by an old work colleague about an urgent requirement for a drone to try and locate some marsh harrier nests in Lincolnshire. A local birdwatcher had spotted the nests in the middle of some arable land some time ago. Consequently the landowner was made aware and, because marsh harriers are Schedule 1 species (i.e. highly protected), he was legally obliged to do something about it before the crops were harvested.
Moving the nests wasn’t an option so the only realistic mitigation was to locate the nests using GPS and put a fence around them. However, only a rough location was known and walking around trying to find the nests would leave trails for foxes and other predators. So the only realistic option, for minimal disruption was to use a drone, fly over the suspected areas and once directly over the nests take a still image. Because the drone has a built-in GPS receiver all images are geotagged so the exact position can be taken using simple software.
I should say that no prescription online pharmacy permission to do this work was granted from Natural England and I also have the necessary permission the CAA – flying drones over Schedule 1 species would be highly illegal without these things in place.
Even though a rough location of the nests was known, it was still very difficult to actually find them. I essentially flew the drone in vague transect lines over a number of very large fields which were completely uniform trying to spot gaps or indentations in the crops which could be a nest. The glare of the sun didn’t help matters.
Thankfully we spotted each of the three nests literally just before I had to bring the drone back due to low battery. The first had an adult sitting on the eggs, the second had 3 chicks and the third and 3 eggs. There was a worry that the sight and sound of the drone may disturb the birds, which it undoubtedly did, but within 5 minutes of landing the adults were back on the nests. The drone was only in the air for about 20 minutes.
I shot a bit of video and took the required photos. The GPS coordinates were embedded in the image metadata which was simple to pull out and show on a map.
I believe the landowner has now erected a 100m electric fence around the nests which I presume will stay in place in case the birds come back to the same nests next year.