Koala surveillance takes to the skies in Logan City

A NEW method of identifying koala populations using thermal-seeking drones has been trialled in a south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales research project led by Queensland University of Technology.

WILDLIFE SEEKER: Unmanned aerial vehicle used in the Queensland University of Technology koala surveillance trial. Photo: Supplied

WILDLIFE SEEKER: Unmanned aerial vehicle used in the Queensland University of Technology koala surveillance trial. Photo: Supplied

Jointly funded by Logan City Council, City of Gold Coast Council and Tweed Shire Council, the project tested the suitability of heat-sensitive unmanned aerial vehicles to identify koalas in their natural habitat in parts of Logan City and the Gold Coast.

KOALA SPOTTING: Thermal-sensitive drones have been trialled as a means of identifying koalas in Logan City. Photo: Supplied

KOALA SPOTTING: Thermal-sensitive drones have been trialled as a means of identifying koalas in Logan City. Photo: Supplied

LCC Division 8 councillor Cherie Dalley, acting chair of the City Health, Environment and Waste Committee, reported the outcomes to council at this week’s ordinary meeting of councillors.

“Logan City Council contributed $16,308 to the research project, as did the other participating councils,” she said.

“Council supports investigating new technology that will assist with koala conservation, and this is the first research project to investigate the potential of using thermal imagery, unmanned aerial systems, artificial intelligence and statistical modelling.

“In supporting this project we are assisting with the development of this technology and future application towards koala conservation.”

The report presented to council said the use of UAVs enabled the surveillance of larger areas, although further refinements of the detection algorithms were required.

LCC will consider the provision of in-kind support – field staff and site selection – for future trials undertaken with QUT.

EYE IN THE SKY: An unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, used as part of the trial. Photo: Supplied

EYE IN THE SKY: An unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, used as part of the trial. Photo: Supplied

Koala numbers

According to Cr Dalley, LCC does not have a figure for the number of koalas in Logan, but there is data on locations in the city where they have been seen.

“Koalas have been found in Slacks Creek and Meadowbrook, Berrinba, Beenleigh and Mount Warren Park, Chambers Flat, Jimboomba and Logan Village, Mundoolun, and Undullah,” she said.

“We encourage the community to report any koala sightings or evidence of koalas so we can use this information for conservation planning.”

The koala is listed as vulnerable under the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

“Through participating in this cutting-edge research, council is assisting in the development of this technology to assist koala conservation, as well as its suitability for detecting other rare species,” Cr Dalley said.

To report sightings of wildlife of any go to the LCC website logan.qld.gov.au/environment-water-and-waste/wildlife/report-wildlife-sightings-online.