RPAS and video analytics locate threatened species in remote NSW

By on 18 July, 2018

A still from a video illustrating surveyed areas at Mount Dangar. Image courtesy of Fuijtsu Australia.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has surveyed remote bushland in the state’s Hunter region in a trial of RPAS-based monitoring of invasive and endangered plant species.

The trial was conducted under the NSW EOH’s ‘Saving our species’ program and in partnership with Fujitsu Australia’s ‘Digital Owl’ project, which uses the firm’s computing, video analytics and drone technology to capture and analyse imagery.

The project utilises machine learning techniques to help classify and identify surveyed vegetation from multispectral imagery captured by RPAS, in an area only accessible by foot or manned helicopter.

Two threatened plant species thought to be facing extinction, Acacia dangarensis and Senecio linearifolius var. dangarensis, were found growing wild at Mount Dangar during the trial.

NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, praised the potential cost savings indicated by the trial.

“In NSW alone there are approximately 1,000 plant and animal species under threat of extinction. Saving these species is crucial to the ongoing health of the various ecosystems in NSW,” she said.

“However, monitoring such a broad area can be prohibitively expensive, especially when considering the cost of chartering and fueling helicopters. It’s exciting to be using new drone technology with detailed layers of analytics behind them to get more accurate information including maps of otherwise inaccessible areas.”

The methodogy and technology tested under the trial can also be used to classify and identify invasive species.

Fujitsu Australia says it plans to further trial the technology for related applications in Australia and New Zealand.

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