Unmanned aerial systems (UASs), frequently referred to as ‘drones’, have become more common and affordable and are a promising tool for collecting data on free-ranging wild animals. We used a Phantom-2 UAS equipped with a gimbal-mounted camera to estimate position, velocity and acceleration of a subject on the ground moving through a grid of GPS surveyed ground control points (area ∼1200 m2). We validated the accuracy of the system against a dual frequency survey grade GPS system attached to the subject. When compared with GPS survey data, the estimations of position, velocity and acceleration had a root mean square error of 0.13 m, 0.11 m s−1 and 2.31 m s−2, respectively. The system can be used to collect locomotion and localisation data on multiple free-ranging animals simultaneously. It does not require specialist skills to operate, is easily transported to field locations, and is rapidly and easily deployed. It is therefore a useful addition to the range of methods available for field data collection on free-ranging animal locomotion.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
R.J.H., A.M.W. and T.Y.H. developed the concepts, R.J.H., T.Y.H., A.M.W. and K.R. developed the approach, C.B., K.R., R.J.H. and H.K.E. performed the experiments, R.J.H. analysed the data, and all authors prepared and/or edited the manuscript.
This work is part of the LOCATE project, funded by the European Research Council (AD-G 323041), and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council funded Cheetah Project (BB/J018007/1).
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.139022.supplemental
- Received February 12, 2016.
- Accepted June 20, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd