Stealth infrared drone spies on sleeping flying foxes

A DRONE has pinpointed the locations of flying foxes in Kearneys Spring in unprecedented night-vision footage.

Drone company AirBorn Insight used a thermal imaging camera to scan the Toowoomba flying fox colony.

A thermal camera was attached to an unmanned aircraft and the animals were detected through the trees with nowhere to hide.

Nathaniel Parker runs the company with Loren Otto and said the footage was a practice run for work with Ipswich City Council.

The Toowoomba men decided to practice on the bats to find out what altitude the drone would disturb the animals.

And it turned out the drone didn't disturb them at all.

"They weren't disturbed at a higher height and when we got lower, none took off. Even at 20m above they were happy," Mr Parker said.

"It was an opportunity to test out our thermal camera and how it would pick up the warm bodies."

They used the information for a later project in Ipswich to assess koalas and kangaroos over a large area.

The team used a research-grade thermal camera.

Thermal imaging of a flying fox colony in Kearneys Spring, Toowoomba.
Thermal imaging of a flying fox colony in Kearneys Spring, Toowoomba. Airborn Insight

Drones and farming

AirBorn Insight is working with CSIRO on a project to assess the drought tolerance of different varieties of crops.

Mr Parker said the work involved drones flying over crops and measuring the heat levels of plants.

Plants that can access more water have cooler canopies, enabling researchers to quantify the cut-off thresholds for irrigation.

Mr Parker said that could help identify which crops could survive the predicated longer drought periods that are associated with global warming.