A new study from the University of Helsinki shows that nests of farmland birds can be located using a drone in combination with artificial intelligence (AI).
Researchers flew a drone carrying a thermal camera over agricultural fields to record images.
These were then fed to an AI algorithm capable of accurately identifying nests, a first step to aid their protection.
“We have been involved in the conservation of ground-nesting farmland birds for years and realized how difficult it is to locate nests on the ground.
At least at high latitudes, the temperature of these nests is typically higher than that of the surrounding environment.
Hence, we thought that thermal cameras could assist”, says Andrea Santangeli.
According to Santangeli, a small pilot study indicated that thermal vision is hampered by vegetation and objects on the ground.
“Therefore, to make this an efficient system, we thought that the camera could be flown using a drone, and artificial intelligence could help to analyze the resulting thermal images.
We show that this works. However, the system performed best under cloudy and cold conditions, and on even grounds.”
The researchers say studies like this one can help pave the way to integrate bird nest detection within the drone borne sensors used in precision agriculture and automate a system for saving those nests.