EPR has completed a pilot study at RSPB Rainham Marshes on the Thames Estuary using drones.
The ecological consultancy deployed its newly acquired drone capability to survey 97 hectares of water levels at the wetland site.
It says the information will help the nature conservation charity make decisions on how to improve the habitat for endangered wildlife.
The drone tech allowed the organisation to complete the surveying within a number of hours rather than days.
In the two hours EPR spent surveying the wetland area, over a thousand photos were generated of the habitat and stitched together to create a single large-scale image.
Used alongside water-level recognition software, the data will allow the RSPB to assess the quality of the habitat for lowland breeding waders and other wildlife, and if needed, it can allow adjustments in management to be made.
Ben Kite, managing director at EPR, commented: “Whilst there is no substitute for experienced professional ecological surveyors, drone technology is supplementing our expert team and enabling us to provide the kind of high-quality, thorough ecological assessments that will help underpin our client’s responses to ecological planning in a fraction of the time that could previously be expected for large, inaccessible or complex study sites.”
He added: “The sophisticated data collection capabilities of the drone also provide an enhanced understanding of the environment that we are working within, leading to better informed decisions as well as increased efficiency and accuracy.”
Additionally, the drone can automatically identify important habitats and differentiate between marshes and grasslands, as well as capture topographical information to generate a 3D model of the site.
EPR says the use of a drone to collect data such as this improves the level of detail and potential for analysis in surveys, ensuring that conservation activities are as effective as possible and, where relevant, requirements are met or exceeded.