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City Parks and Zoo's eyes in the sky trigger swift response Print E-mail
11 December 2017
DronesJCPZ
 
Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, who oversee over 2 000 public open spaces – some as huge as 100 rugby fields, is harnessing technology to patrol the City’s vast expanse of parks, ridges, bird sanctuaries, water bodies, koppies and nature reserves by using drones.                                                                         

The two drones are being effectively used to monitor over 160 conservation sites in all of the City’s seven regions, enabling City Parks to identify and swiftly respond to problem areas.

Phillip Nkombo, Acting Nature Conservator at City Parks, says the drones can take high-quality video or still images, which are then analysed to identify and swiftly respond to any unusual occurrence.

“We’ve even used drones to monitor bird flu at the Westdene Dam. It was used to check if there were any carcasses of Sacred Ibis birds killed by bird flu in hard to access areas.”

Theo Bernhardt, a Geographic Information Specialist at City Parks, says the drone is “like an electronic pet” because it always returns to where it started. He adds that the drones are usually flown at the height of some 20 metres above ground, but they can go as high as 50 metres.

Ten things City Parks uses drones for:

1. For georeferencing: They can take images which can be used to measure an area
2. To identify alien plants and have them removed
3. During firebreaks: They have been used to manage both controlled and accidental fires in conservation areas, which can be dangerous to adjacent houses in built up areas
4. For asset counting of game in JCPZs reserves and to monitor the City’s ecology
5. For game sampling: To count reedbucks at the Kloofendal Nature Reserve
6. To monitor the change and condition of the veld over time which helps identify change in vegetation
7. For alien invasive plant control in water bodies,
8. To measure the size of infestation covered by alien plants which can then develop direct eradication strategies
9. To calculate trends at City cemeteries over time and to archive aerial footage
10. To use footage for education and training on fire management

To make maximum use of the drones, the City will have to invest in specialised software and on the licensing of pilots, which don’t come cheap.

 

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