Aerial Surveys of Koala Bears

With Koala populations in decline across their native range in Australia due to habitat loss and fragmentation, researchers have come up with an innovative strategy for more efficiently and effectively monitoring koalas in their natural habitat. Monitoring koalas in remote habitats is challenging, as it is difficult to take aerial photographs or embark on research trips on foot. So researchers at the Queensland University of Technology created a drone in 2017 to monitor vulnerable koala populations. The drones carry programmed sensors, and are fitted with standard and thermal cameras that harbour a complex hierarchy of algorithms designed to differentiate and identify individual animals from their color, shape, and size. By automating image classification, the drone performs a task that would otherwise have to be analyzed by a researcher, saving valuable time and resources in monitoring this vulnerable animal. The images are also time stamped, with GPS information, enabling researchers to create highly accurate maps of koala location at a given point in time. The researchers can now conduct a population census (rather than a mere survey) with a high degree of accuracy.

Leigh, Catherine, Grace Heron, Ella Wilson, Taylor Gregory, Samuel Clifford, Jacinta Holloway, Miles McBain et al. “Using virtual reality and thermal imagery to improve statistical modelling of vulnerable and protected species.(2019)

Ward, Sean, Jordon Hensler, Bilal Alsalam, and Luis Felipe Gonzalez. “Autonomous UAVs wildlife detection using thermal imaging, predictive navigation and computer vision.

Pedris, Lalini. (2017, Mar 16). “Drones and artificial intelligence image processing improving the ‘koality’ of wildlife monitoring.” 


Artificial Intelligence, Biodiversity, Ecological Monitoring, Monitoring, Visual Technologies