Wild dogs and foxes pose a significant management and control problem for a significant portion of the Australian mainland. This threat from pest animals includes dingoes, feral domestic dogs and foxes. In addition to the effect on farmers and their livelihood, wild dogs have a significant impact on the environment through the disruption of natural ecologies. 67 per cent of landholders reports having a wild dog problem on their own property (Binks, Kancans & Stenekes, 2015) with 37 percent of these considering their wild dog problem as severe or extremely severe.
Currently, regional wild dog management groups play a key role in planning and executing cost tolerable, collaborative management actions. Through the engagement of landholder’s management actions, management groups can implement coordinated control actions such as shooting, ground baiting, and trapping was the most common wild dog/fox. However, government management departments undertake more aerial baiting (through drone video photography) and less shooting (Binks, Kancans & Stenekes, 2015).
These control plans require a clear understanding of local wild dog populations, hotspots and attack sites to inform targeted control actions. Uaviation has invested time into exploring the use of UAV aerial photography as a wild dog population data collection tool and the flight variables which impact the effective application of the technology.
Using a thermal camera mounted on a multirotor drone, Uaviation in cooperation with government wild dog management staff, systematically flew a series of flights to test the efficacy of the technology at varying altitudes, canopy covers, times of day and angles of the camera. Trained domesticated dogs were used as targets during the testing process and moved through areas identified as having open (0% cover), light (0-30%), moderate (30-60%) and dense (60-100%) canopy covers, as the drone moved through altitudes ranging from 35 to 105 meters. This process was repeated at dawn, mid-morning and late morning.
It was expected that flights conducted in the early morning when the contrast in body heat from the background was highest, at low to moderate altitudes, at low canopy covers would produce the best conditions for identifying wild dogs with drones and in general, this was the result obtained. The objective of the test was to identify the thresholds in detection for these variables.
The end results of this experiment lead to the conclusion that the use of aerial drone photography and thermal cameras for conducting wild dog surveys holds great value under certain circumstances. This value is set to grow as the mass of high-resolution thermal cameras decreases and the endurance of autonomous aircraft improves.