Flying Drones for Conservation
CONSERVATION – Disney Conservation Fund
By Terry M. Norton, DVM, DACZM, Director and Veterinarian
Jekyll Island Authority’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Jekyll Island Authority’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center was recently involved in a drone building workshop with four of our partner conservation organizations in Costa Rica. Participating organizations included Minae, Osa Ecology, Reserva Playa Tortuga, and Parque Marino del Pacifico. The Disney Conservation Fund financially supported a significant portion of the workshop including paying for two drones, travel for two instructors and one participant, and food for the four day course – thank you Disney! The Kashmir World Foundation taught the course and provided financial support for a drone and travel expenses for their staff. David Smith from Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited (CAVU) and St. Catherines Island Foundation provided financial support for drone parts for one of the teams. Jaynie Gaskin from Georgia Southern University’s St. Catherines Island Sea Turtle Project helped organize the workshop and instruct participants. The Reserva Playa Tortuga generously provided housing, facilities and the infrastructure to host the workshop. It was a GREAT collaborative effort.
Two days were spent building the drones, which provided conservationists an understanding of the working parts of their drone and how to fix the drone if there are malfunctions or how to add additional technology in the future. All four drones were successfully flown, initially on a soccer field and then on a sea turtle nesting beach as the participants flying expertise advanced. Osa Ecology, a newly formed NGO will monitor sea turtle nesting on remote beaches and in-water, survey dolphins and whales, and likely many other activities. Minae is a governmental agency tasked with a variety of conservation management activities with which drone monitoring will be very beneficial. Reserva Playa Tortuga staff is engaged in a variety of wildlife conservation activities that will benefit from drone technology including monitoring sea turtles, crocodilians, birds and mammals of the area. The Parque Marino del Pacifico is an aquarium in Puntarenas Costa Rica. They have a similar mission to the GSTC, integrating research, education and rehabilitation of marine turtles and other wildlife. They are working with researchers involved with mangrove conservation where drone monitoring will be of great benefit. This was a very special workshop for me because it brought together partners that we have nurtured since the start of our programs in Costa Rica in 2011, and the workshop was a phenomenal success.