NTBG is at the forefront of using drone and GIS technology to advance rare plant conservation and discovery in Hawaii’s extreme terrain. The drone program began in 2016 when staff began to search for a tool that would enable the survey of extreme cliff habitats. Aided by drones, NTBG has made a variety of exciting discoveries like the 2019 find of the thought-to-be-exinct Hibiscadelphus woodii, a new island record of Isodendrion pryfolium, or the discovery of multiple critically endangered species on the cliffs of Limahuli Valley.
These new flying tools are changing the way we work in vertical terrain. We are unlocking areas that have not been surveyed and learning a lot about the distribution and abundance of Hawaiian cliff-dwelling species. We are pushing the limits of off-the-shelf drones, while also working together with collaborators to develop custom and highly specialized robotics to work on collecting rare species remotely. Read more about the robotic arm collecting rare plant material from inaccessible habitats.
NTBG’s collaboration with Outreach Robotics and the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec began in 2020. Trial flights using Mamba include partnering with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and the Plant Extinction Prevention Program. National Geographic supported the development of the Mamba and Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has supported drone explorations.
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