How Drones are Saving Koalas Injured in Australia’s Bushfires

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A couple of years ago, we shared the news that a forestry company in Victoria, Australia, was using drones equipped with thermal cameras to detect koalas before trees were cut down or controlled burns ignited.

In recent times, the wildfires devastating the same area of Australia have been anything but controlled. And sadly, those same methods have been required as part of a search and rescue initiative involving Victoria’s koala population.

A photo gallery published in today’s Guardian shows how DJI equipment is being used by Victoria Police to track down koalas in the aftermath of the fires. Many of the bears have suffered serious burns and require veterinary treatment.

Habitats across the state of Victoria have been completely or partially destroyed, so work is underway to rehome koalas into nearby reserves. The only trouble is, detecting bears among the canopy – even when large areas of forest have been wiped out by bushfires – is extremely difficult.

Watch: Using a FLIR Thermal Camera to Track Whales

Ironically, the solution relies on the same element that caused all of this destruction in the first place: heat. Police and wildlife officers are using drones and thermal cameras to detect the heat signatures of the surviving koalas.

Once the bears are located, the team on the ground are using the drone to get a closer look and see if medical attention is required. If the bears are in need of assistance, the team are using cherry pickers to fetch them down.

A member of the Victorian police drone unit uses a DJI drone to search for and assess koalas.

From what we can see, the emergency crews in Australia are flying DJI’s Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual. The commercial platform was launched at the end of 2018 and is designed to be used with a range of accessories as part of industrial inspection and public safety missions.

It looks as though DJI can add koala search and rescue to the list of applications.

A thermal shot of a koala.

Images from the Guardian.



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