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Data from: Drones count wildlife more accurately and precisely than humans

Cite this dataset

Hodgson, Jarrod C. et al. (2019). Data from: Drones count wildlife more accurately and precisely than humans [Dataset]. Dryad.


Knowing how many individuals are in a wildlife population allows informed management decisions to be made. Ecologists are increasingly using technologies, such as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA; commonly known as “drones,” unmanned aerial systems or unmanned aerial vehicles), for wildlife monitoring applications. Although RPA are widely touted as a cost-effective way to collect high-quality wildlife population data, the validity of these claims is unclear. Using life-sized, replica seabird colonies containing a known number of fake birds, we assessed the accuracy of RPA-facilitated wildlife population monitoring compared to the traditional ground-based counting method. The task for both approaches was to count the number of fake birds in each of 10 replica seabird colonies. We show that RPA-derived data are, on average, between 43% and 96% more accurate than the traditional ground-based data collection method. We also demonstrate that counts from this remotely sensed imagery can be semi-automated with a high degree of accuracy. The increased accuracy and increased precision of RPA-derived wildlife monitoring data provides greater statistical power to detect fine-scale population fluctuations allowing for more informed and proactive ecological management.

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