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Going Ape for Drones

Serge Wich and Lian Pin Koh, both long-time environmentalists and ecologists, first met to discuss a common theme in their work: how oil palm is affecting wildlife habitats. Both Serge and Lian Pin wanted to develop more efficient methods for analyzing the distribution of endangered species, such as the orangutan. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are a dwindling Asian species of great apes.

At first, they considered sending multiple researchers to visit the forests to count the nests by hand, but they soon realized this traditional approach would be cost-prohibitive and ineffective for regularly monitoring orangutans in changing landscapes. Deciding that they needed to find a more efficient and less costly way to obtain the data, they Googled aerial photography and drones.

That’s when they stumbled upon DIYDrones.com. After a few months of learning and testing, Serge and Lian Pin took their first APM-powered drone to Indonesia.

“We were amazed at how much we could see on the footage,” said Serge. ”Although we did not find conclusive evidence for orangutan nests in the photos on the first trip, we got tons of great feedback from the community. And we were successful on our second mission.”

In between these two missions, they started the conservationdrones.org website in April 2012 to share their findings with the ecological research community.

The video below was taken on their first mission to Indonesia.

We’ll be following up with more stories from Serge and Lian Pin on how they are using APM-powered drones for ecological research.

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