Thermal camera drones: Rescue of fawns

Initial problem

According to estimates, about 25,000 fawns die an agonising death every year in Austria when fields are mown. This is a major problem for the wildlife population and must also be avoided at all costs for ethical reasons. The protection of wild animals in Austria is regulated in the current "Federal Act on the Protection of Animals" (abbreviated to "Animal Protection Act - TschG").

During the mowing process it is almost impossible for farmers to recognise the young animals laid down in the field by the mother animal and to bring them to safety. Furthermore, the animal carcasses caught by the mowing equipment often contaminate animal feed, which in turn entails the risk of poisoning - resulting in the death of the farm animals fed with it. Other animal species such as hedgehogs, hares and certain birds can also fall victim to mowing and should therefore also be rescued from the danger zone and relocated to fields that are not mown for the time being. The psychological burden of killing these animals, even unintentionally, should not be underestimated.

Due to various factors such as weather conditions, the exact time of mowing can often only be defined shortly beforehand by the farmer. This means that the spontaneous availability of helpers and their coordination cannot always be guaranteed. Some problems arise in the pure search for wild animals on the ground. The rescue only makes sense directly before the upcoming mowing. If the rescue were to be carried out many hours or days beforehand, there is a relatively high risk that animals that had previously been brought to safety will move back into the field. The search before dawn is particularly difficult because of the darkness and the so-called "ducking behaviour" of the fawns when danger is approaching, as the animals can hardly be seen in the tall grass, even if you are standing directly in front of them. This can lead to animals being left to their fate despite the search being carried out.

General approach

The additional use of drones, which can also track animals in the dark using thermal cameras, can make fawn rescue more efficient, more precise and more flexible. The use of modern drone technology has decisive advantages in this field of application:

1. The multi-rotor drones used for this purpose can be used very flexibly. They can be launched from adjacent field paths, for example, and allow a quick overview from the air.

2. Fields can be systematically searched for animals using the thermal imaging camera. If a heat signature of an animal is detected on the screen, the drone is held over the exact position above it to give instructions to helpers on the ground and guide them directly to the animal. In comparison to conventional searching methods like helpers forming a chain drone use requires only a small team. The risk of overlooking animals on the fields can be reduced to a minimum.

3) Advances in drone technology, as within current devices, have made it possible to achieve very practical flight times of more than 30 minutes per battery charge.

Battery swapping can also be done very quickly and the drone will be back in the air within only a few minutes, making the use of drones a very time - and resource - saving method. Compared to traditional work flows with a high demand of manpower, drones can cover larger field areas in a short amount of time.

Another huge benefit of drone operations is the fact that it is environmentally friendly. Due to their electrical operation by means of rechargeable energy storage, their use is CO2-neutral and climate-friendly. This also saves money, as no fuel has to be bought for the flight missions.

Our solution

With AIRXBIG Projektentwicklungs GmbH we are one step ahead and offer our own drone platform developed by our team. It consists of the following six components: drone, hardware, software, sensor technology, analysis and personnel.  The "one-stop-shop" in the form of a Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS) enables the use of drones for customers in various areas.

Besides selling the latest drone hardware and software developed by our company, we also offer trainings concerning the rescuing of fawns. We benefit from many years of experience and an active exchange of knowledge with hunting experts. Furthermore, we strive for a holistic and practice-oriented implementation of fawn rescue.

Our profession includes all relevant steps of procedure, beginning with the planning and organisation of the rescue process, considering all legal aspects of drone flights and operating the drone in the field. We also want to be a general networking platform for people who use drone technology to provide added value as well as to drive progress in our society.

Picture above: Finding of a fawn in the field (photo: Johann Hackl)

Picture above: Fawns laid down in safety (photo: Johann Hackl)

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