Taking photos for fun, professional work, or for practice is one way to use a drone. But making observations with a drone is something new and completely different. This is where the professional drone photographer has to give up on capturing the scenery, and focus on capturing the right observations.

I have been lucky to have been on a few observation sites, with a team of scientists and wildlife researchers who monitor the life in the ocean and on the coast. I know a few things about wildlife and have the deepest respect for animals, but I am no expert. I am only experienced flying the drone and how it reacts to certain weather conditions. This is why they call me in.

Together with the universities we have been testing how certain animals reacts to the noise from a drone during breeding time. Many observations are made during breeding seasons, as it is a great way to monitor how well the animals are doing. At the same time we have monitored birds and their nests, coming very close to the chicks with the drone. 

All permits were in order to allow flying the drone in these areas, as you should always fly with respect to your surroundings. We were doing research and had to break the barrier a bit, therefore special permits were made for me to fly in these zones and this close to the animals. 

Basically for an observation you take many photos which are stitched together to count every single animal or bird in the picture. You should also take many single photos for special observations. Below you  can see an example on how the Ornithologist stitched the photos together to make the proper observations. This photo is originally 22000 px wide and 10000 px high.
Worth mentioning when working at sea with the drone, is to always have a set of polar filters prepared to attach to then lens of the drone. The reflecting sunlight at the sea will overexpose white areas, and completely blacken all shadings. I recommend using a high shutter when doing photos at sea, and a low ISO to avoid as much grain in the photo as possible, but is is all based on weather conditions, and time of day.

The photo above was taken without Polar filters, due to overcast weather, which is perfect for these kind of observations at sea.

If you are about to fly out and make observations like this, make sure you have all your permits in order, and always fly with the greatest respect of the animals, after all it's their kingdom you are invading. Always monitor your drone by screen, and visually whenever possible, and if you are ever in doubt, don't go there. Making observations with a drone is just as much about gut feeling as it is experience flying the drone.

The permits I needed here, I had to get from the Ministry of Transport, as it is an absolute no-fly zone. I needed a permit from the Environment Protection Agency as it is a bird sanctuary, and no one is allowed there, not even on foot. As the last thing I needed my drone certificate to prove I that I know the rules for flying a drone, and how to maneuver the drone.

Good luck with your research and your science projects using a drone.


Back to Top