Drones for Wildlife Management

Drones are often used for monitoring and identifying problems on the range. (Photo by Russell Graves)

By Russell Graves 

The feeling is scary and amazing all at the same time. Within minutes of my new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, arriving at my rural home north of Childress, Texas, I have it unboxed and ready for flight. Using technology not even available just a few years ago, I held the remote controller in my hands while I looked at my phone that’s attached to the controller. With a wireless connection, I can see on my phone what the UAV’s camera sees, and while the craft is still on the ground, I’m enthralled.

Starting the drone, the props instantly whir to life. While the craft idles, I go over my mental checklist on how to make it fly. Taking a deep breath and with a bit of nervousness, I accelerated the craft. Dust wafts from beneath it as it escapes the bounds of gravity for the first time under my control. In flying, altitude in an asset, so I accelerate the craft to climb and clear of any obstructions. Within a couple of seconds, it’s 100 feet above my front yard and hovering. Looking at the drone and then back at my iPhone, I see my house and yard in a way I’ve never seen it before.

The way to learn to walk is to take baby steps, the same as flying a drone. My first baby step in learning to fly was to travel linearly- straight away and straight back. As I fly, I can see my property in an intimate way that I’ve never seen before. Every tree and gully is clearly visible in astounding detail. I’ve flown over the place in a helicopter and airplane before, but I’ve never been in control of the craft.

The ability to fly so low and see the ground below in such intricate detail is empowering. Before long, I’ve flown and photographed my whole property and built a cache of photos that I can analyze once I’m done flying.

To read more pick up a copy of the August 2017 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.