Drones are used to observe rare Tibetan antelopes in a nighttime study

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A research in China used a Zenmuse H20N equipped DJI M300 RTK drone to observe and track migrating, rare Tibetan antelopes.

Nicknamed “plateau elves,” Tibetan antelopes are among the threatened species that scientists at the Northwest Plateau Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences sought to observe during a recent migration period. The study took place at the end of July, about midway through the annual May-September migration period of female antelopes through the Sanjiangyuan region, home to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Wubei Bridge and the Qinghai-Tibet Highway. The area monitored was at an altitude of 4,600 meters, and featured rolling terrain making constant manual monitoring in daylight difficult – and virtually impossible at night.

To overcome these challenges posed by the terrain, researchers used DJI’s M300 RTK to flatten the nearby peaks and valleys, and the Zenmuse H20N’s high-power zoom infrared thermal imaging, night vision, and laser ranging functions to keep constant watch of Tibetan antelope herds.

Those assets allowed direct yet unobtrusive observation from distances of 500 to 600 meters. The digital data that the drone collected also allowed for far more accurate counting tallies, and clear images permitting researchers to identify individuals and various habits of Tibetan antelope as they migrated to and from reproduction areas. Those include nocturnal behaviour previously unknown to specialists.

Information and insights obtained from the data collected will shape steps taken to protect the species and other animals plateau animals from encroaching on human presence.

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