Sunrise on a bright autumn day in a mountain nature reserve, somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Several chamois and ibex graze here and there in a pasture above the tree line. Suddenly, there is a movement and a noise in the sky and all the animals are gone within seconds. What has happened? A small multicopter appears flying along the mountain ridge, probably to film the vertiginous view from the heights.
Small flying devices, drones, equipped with high performance photo or video cameras as well as a lot of other technical equipment are more and more often seen in mountain areas, and therefore in the Alpine protected areas. Their presence can mean a great risk of disturbance to wildlife that needs to be taken into account and managed by those responsible for these conservation areas. On the other hand, the new and innovative technology offers a large variety of interesting tools and possibilities to facilitate the day-to-day work of protected areas managers when used in a responsible way.
An international ALPARC conference that took place the 26-27 March 2018 in Dobbiaco (I) was the opportunity to hear about current experiences with the new technology in Alpine protected areas. Indeed, several protected areas are already using drones for vegetation mapping, remote sensing activities, the development of 3D elevation modelling or technical interventions in inaccessible areas. An expert for a British research institute presented “guidelines of good practice of drone use” developed in an international context for another highly sensitive area, Antarctica. Three round tables offered the possibility to exchange about prospects for the use of drones for conservation communication issues, to discuss the multiple legal situations in the Alpine countries and to imagine possible developments in drone robotics adapted to specific (research) needs in protected areas. Finally, the prospect of a common Alpine guideline on the use of drones in sensitive protected natural areas was discussed by the conference delegates.
Further information about this event and the presentations are available online:
the delegates to the ALPARC conference on drones in protected areas watching a flying demonstration. Picture taken by a drone.
© Michael Schmalzl, Alpsvision GmbH/s.r.l.