Aerial survey of grasslands for wildlife and fawn detection prior to mowing works
21. April 2022
Project number: 9.902.60004 (Aerial grassland surveys for possible fauna detection)
Involved cooperation partners:
FH JOANNEUM | University of Applied Sciences
Throughout Austria, up to 25,000 fawns suffer death each year as a result of mowing on agricultural land – especially near forests. The fawns are hidden in the high grass by the doe for their own protection and are particularly difficult to detect or endangered during mowing work, due to the combination of the dotted colouring of their fur with their natural behaviour, which causes them to duck or hide in dangerous situations.
In order to detect fawns before mowing, the method of flying over meadows with drones or UAS has proven to be effective. The drones are equipped with thermal cameras, which enable the detection of living beings even with high grass cover or despite the animals’ protective measures. Together with FH JOANNEUM, Holding Graz initiated the aerial survey of meadows in the north of Graz, which are managed by a farmer for fruit cultivation. The aerial survey was carried out by FH JOANNEUM using a technologically sufficiently equipped UAS in compliance with the law.
All the planned areas were flown over by UAS using hybrid sensors – both optical and thermal. Within the first hour, a brown hare was detected due to its thermal signature, which sought shelter on its own after the subsequent human approach. The comparison of the resulting infrared image with the optical image taken immediately before, shows both the great challenge of detecting animals with the naked eye and the efficient and effective possibility of using the detection method with adequately equipped drones. The results were disseminated on the online presences and social media channels of AIRlabs and FH JOANNEUM, as well as at various conferences.
In the course of a validation flight on 21.04.2022, the innovative findings were once again confirmed. The lessons learned were summarised in a detailed German flight guide and are available to the public for free download on our website.