Drone uses: tracking fauna and power in the Mid West

Midwest Times
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff Keith Morris and Kelly Rayner, pictured in 2017 releasing two hare-wallabies.
Camera IconDepartment of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff Keith Morris and Kelly Rayner, pictured in 2017 releasing two hare-wallabies. Credit: Supplied, Richard Manning

Drones have been employed to monitor endangered banded and Rufous hare-wallabies on Dirk Harthog Island – and detect faults on Western Power’s grid.

The technology allows multiple animals to be tracked at once, whereas before only one could be monitored at a time.

A small population of the animals was reintroduced to Dirk Harthog Island in 2017 as part of an ambitious ecological restoration program dubbed Return to 1616.

The program aims to restore the island’s native flora and fauna to how it would have been when first discovered by Europeans.

Last year, another 140 hare-wallabies, fitted with radio collars, were introduced from nearby Bernier and Dorre islands.

The animals were monitored for three months using manual on-ground tracking but Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the process proved time consuming and labour intensive.

Mr Dawson said the use of drones for this purpose was a State first and “an absolute game changer for conservation in remote WA”.

He said recent data collected with drones indicated the reintroduction program was succeeding.

“The national park is now a refuge for some of our most iconic threatened species such as woylies, dibblers, chuditch, boodies and banded and Rufous hare-wallabies,” Mr Dawson said.

“Twenty-eight wallaby offspring have been recorded since the first wallabies were released onto the island, which is welcome news.”

Western Power workers operate a drone near Geraldton.
Camera IconWestern Power workers operate a drone near Geraldton. Credit: Western Power

Meanwhile, drones are being used in Geraldton and Northam to detect faults on Western Power’s grid.

A three-month trial has been launched with the aim of increasing response times to outages and detect faults.

Energy Minister Bill Johnston said drones could also help Western Power crews carry out inspections in difficult locations.

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