Counting Penguins

Counting Penguins

Counting penguins is more durable than it sounds. With freezing rain, snow, and chilling winds that restrict the flight home windows for the surveys, it takes scientists utilizing three full days to map the placement of 300,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins on Antarctica’s Cape Crozier.

Now, UgCS software program by SPH Engineering has helped scientists to chop that point to simply 3 hours utilizing drones and a brand new flight path algorithm. Previously, scientists piloted single drones forwards and backwards over swaths of land. Now, a brand new flight-path algorithm known as “Popcorn” robotically units the course for a number of drones to cross over the identical space in only a fraction of the time, whereas avoiding collisions and assembly strict airspace rules.

The new program, which cuts out the human pilot, was a more than 10-fold improvement on previous techniques, researchers reported final month in Science Robotics. On high of that, the researchers captured breathtaking footage of the penguins’ actions, which change in response to shifting patterns of sea ice. A crew of specialists from Stanford University, Point Blue Conservation Science, and Conservation Metrics programmed the autonomous drones to take 1000’s of high-resolution photos on every survey.

Efficiency is the important thing to getting essentially the most out of the UAVs. Even underneath very best circumstances, most industrial UAVs solely have sufficient battery energy to fly for at most about half an hour. In Antarctica, chilly temperatures may cause the batteries to expend their cost even quicker.

“This algorithm offers you a set of paths relying on the kind of drone you will have,” stated researcher Kunal Shah, who led the event of the algorithm that plans essentially the most environment friendly UAV path. “It takes the battery restrict into consideration and it offers you principally a listing of paths that you may fly ranging from no matter beginning location you need.”

Annie Schmidt, a researcher at Point Blue Conservation Science, added, “Using UgCS with a customized route planning algorithm, our crew effectively photographed over 300,000 breeding pairs of penguins at Cape Crozier, Antarctica. Ultimately these surveys will contribute to large-scale assessments of penguin populations and breeding success, key metrics for monitoring the well being of the Antarctic marine ecosystem.”

Schmidt additional defined, ““What’s distinctive about that is with the ability to not simply depend, however having the numbers spatially referenced so we all know that on this a part of the colony there have been this many birds after which there are this many chicks in that half. We’ve by no means had that type of data earlier than. That will give us quite a lot of energy to investigate data from that particular spot and the way that influences the penguins. Ultimately we’d wish to scale this to doubtlessly different locations and different colonies which might be exhausting to survey as a result of they’re so massive.”

This analysis was funded by the National Science Foundation and carried out underneath Antarctic Conservation Act Permit #ACA 2020-005.