Today, drone data is used for a variety of projects, most notably in Kakadu National Park. Drone data has proved invaluable to these operations by providing timely feedback to land managers, Traditional Owners, and administrative officers about the effectiveness of management actions for supporting cultural and biodiversity values - something that was virtually impossible to achieve using manual survey. On Cape York Peninsula in Northern Queensland, drone data is being used to monitor cattle effects and introduced pigs on the wetlands. CSIRO is working with its partners to develop an AI-driven approach to automate the analysis of the aerial photographs that are used to count important animals and track the changes in habitat following management. This further simplifies the data collection and recording process for rangers who can use the summary data to assess the effectiveness of their chosen management actions and make informed planning decisions.
By working with land managers to combine accessible drone software with cloud-driven analytical approaches, the work has provided some useful examples of how drones can be used to support land management activities. For example, the Kakadu wetland management project is run by rangers who survey each site in about 2 hours. Following the survey, they use software to upload their map into cloud servers where automated functions perform the analysis and provide a web-based summary. Without this system in place, Justin explained, monitoring activities would need to be done by specialists, and data insights would only be available following manual analysis and reporting that generally takes between 6 – 12 months. Not only is this expensive, but the insights are not available when land managers need them to make decisions about their activities. More importantly, this approach provides Indigenous employment opportunities and embeds local people’s values and participation into the solution.