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Rapidly declining biodiversity and the quality and quantity of habitat and natural resources necessitates urgency for innovative ideas, cutting edge technology and creative approaches to advance scientific understanding of how natural systems function and strengthen conservation, restoration and sustainable development strategies. Eco-drones offer significant potential toward this end. Eco-drone is defined here as an unmanned aerial system (UAS) comprising hardware and software components and operating procedures designed to capture, store, transfer, and process geospatial data that is readily available for visual and/or digital analysis to support socio-environmental applications.

“Potential” is the operative word here, as only a few applications across the range of possibilities have been well tested and documented. In order to realize and advance eco-drone potential, the proven technological components must be matched, integrated, and field tested in conjunction with project specific objectives and site specific logistics. If individual projects are to be successful in their own right and contribute to the wider body of knowledge and solutions, eco-drone planners and operators must have a coherent understanding of the role this technology plays in environmental research and management at large. This presentation aims to contribute toward the development of best practices for achieving these goals.