NSF grant to help NAU grow and share drone technology

Using engineering technologies and an unmanned aerial vehicle will help researchers more effectively track small animals

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Wildlife biologists and ecologists are data starved because current technologies for tracking small animals are time intensive and produce low sample sizes, said Paul Flikkema, professor of electrical engineering.

NAU researchers have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle to find animals in the wild that are carrying tiny transmitting tags. The technology has potential to vastly improve the ability to track small wildlife.

Carol Chambers, a forestry professor and wildlife biologist, has spent years tracking bats. After a small radio transmitter is glued to a bat and it flies away, the researchers track the transmitter’s signal, often through rugged terrain.

“It could make our work more efficient because people won’t have to drive around for days searching for transmitters, often hiking long distances and up to the tops of hills and mountains to find bat roosts,” said Chambers, who primarily works to protect maternity bat roost habitats.

“Better and faster is what we are shooting for,” said Michael Shafer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who is named on the NSF grant with Flikkema and Chambers.

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