Drones: the new tools in protecting forests, wildlife

The Yan'an Qiaobei Forestry Bureau is using new technology to monitor forests.

Forest patrol officers of the Yan’an Qiaobei Forestry Bureau in Shaanxi Province are the first batch to use drones to monitor the forests.

Ziwuling is the largest national nature reserve in Yan’an, covering 4.54 million hectares. The reserve is made up of three forests, protecting the water and soil resources in the Loess Plateau region but making effective foot patrols impossible.

As the drones are easily operated, the forestry bureau has been widely using this technology to patrol the vast, dense reaches of the forests.

“In case of a wildfire, it used to take 30 to 50 minutes for us to locate the hotspot before any action could be taken,” says Gao Guangyu, a patrol officer.

“Now with drones in the sky, it only takes about five minutes to search the whole forest area, so that we can check the fire at its initial stage.”

Each patrol officer used to walk 20 kilometers a day.

Now, the revolutionary new technology has dramatically improved work efficiency and significantly cut down staff’s work hours.

Apart from the 13 drones on patrol, the bureau also established a new security system that includes two surveillance stations with more than 50 cyber cameras and 164 infrared cameras.

Patrol officers can receive images and live-video feeds from the drones, providing a bird’s-eye view of challenges that can’t be seen on foot.

The infrared cameras can snap pictures of the animals in the area and send the images back to the ground control station. The cyber cameras can help conduct surveys to detect possible threats by insects, diseases, human activities and major weather events.

“If any illegal actions take place, such as poaching or illegal logging, we can send out staff immediately,” says Chen Guoqiang, vice director of the Zhang Village Woodland Station.

All the recordings will be collected in the data base for scientists to study, and make the best plan to protect the wildlife in the forest accordingly.


A patrol officer watches a live video of a North China Leopard, captured by infrared cameras, wandering for food at night in the Ziwuling National Nature Reserve.

A patrol officer at the Huaishu Village Protection Station checks images of wild animals captured by infrared cameras over the past days for data collection.

Patrol officers use a drone to access difficult areas of the forest that are nearly impossible to patrol effectively on foot.

The Yan’an Qiaobei Forestry Bureau is highly interested in new technology and believes that with drones circling in the sky, it is easy to assess damages and efficiently plan recovery measures.

Xin Hua
Xin Hua
Xin Hua
Xin Hua
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