australian aviation logo

Hogging the skies: new study tracks feral pigs with drones

written by Jake Nelson | October 17, 2023

A Charles Darwin University study has found the best times to track feral pigs with drones.

A new study from Charles Darwin University (CDU) has highlighted the best times for using drones to track feral pigs.

The study, which combined GPS tracking with aerial drone surveys, found that mornings in the wet season and early evenings offered the best time to survey wild pig populations, with early evenings offering a detection probability of 50 to 75 per cent.

Professor Hamish Campbell, director of CDU’s North Australian Centre for Autonomous Systems (NACAS), said that studies like this can help improve conservation outcomes and mitigate the limitations of drones, which are otherwise a “great tool” for monitoring wildlife.

“Aerial drone systems are now widely used to survey wildlife, but validation in the detectability of individuals is rarely assessed,” Professor Campbell said.

“Monitoring is a critical part of the success of any management program and data from studies like this ensure that we are creating robust and cost-effective programs.”


The study involved releasing feral pigs caught in the wild into a large natural habitat enclosure in Northern Australia and then conducting multiple flights using fixed-wing drones equipped with visual imaging and dual thermal infrared cameras.

Flights occurred from sunrise to sunset across both the wet and dry seasons, and mid-afternoon was the worst time to detect feral pigs.

According to CDU PhD candidate Aliesha Hvala, there was a “highly variable” probability that a pig would be visible in aerial imagery.

“We observed seasonal differences, with detection probabilities exceeding 50 per cent in the mornings of the wet season, in contrast to less than 30 per cent during the dry season,” she said.

“GPS location data also enabled us to assess how canopy cover, land cover, and ambient temperature altered animal detection probability.”

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.