Skip to main content

Robotics challenges in conservation ecology

Track: Specific operating environments

Date and Time: 15 Mar 2024 08:30-09:50

Organisers: Fabio Remondino, Ulrik Pagh Schultz Lundquist, Tom Richardson

Main questions to be answered: How can robots be deployed in daily ecology practices that encompass complex tasks and need real-time reliable solutions to scale up wildlife and habitat condition monitoring?

Additional questions: How can computer-vision-driven technologies, such as deep learning, be applied to robot-collected data to generate innovative discoveries and support ecological studies and habitat monitoring?

Additional questions 2: How can we innovate robot design, operations, and control to support the needs of ecology and nature conservation while minimising their environmental impact?

Workshop Description: Autonomous robots for ecology and biodiversity conservation applications are generally underused, being regarded as expensive hi-tech tools with limited autonomy and intelligence that can only relieve workers of physical fatigue or repetitive tasks in large-scale and highly-regular areas. Skill requirement of workers to operate such robots is also a barrier that impedes deployment, as are current regulations that make it difficult to deploy fully autonomous robotics solutions, for example drones operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). Further, experience and requirements exchange between ecologists and industry is largely lacking (with a few important exceptions) and that likely hinders the effective development and use of automated solutions in conservation ecology. To boost the use of robotics in monitoring of nature and the environment, with an overall goal of biodiversity conservation, and to overcome actual open technological issues, we must show how robots (aerial, land, and underwater) can learn to navigate and operate in environments that are highly complex, dense and rapidly changing, and how they are able to support decisions for biologists and ecologists. In conservation ecology there are scenarios which have tasks that are difficult to automate, and where speed, consistency, versatility, robustness and safety perception are fundamental. In this workshop, we will explore these topics through reports and best practices related to wildlife and habitat conservation within three EU projects, two recently funded and one close to completion: ‘MAMBO’ – Modern Approaches to the Monitoring of Biodiversity; ‘WildDrone’ – Autonomous Drones for Nature Conservation Missions; and ‘Natural Intelligence‘ Robotic Monitoring of Habitats. Together, these projects provide perspectives from different levels of technological readiness: low (WildDrone), mid (Natural Intelligence), and high (MAMBO). Insights from experts in the field that are trying to solve different challenges and improve capabilities will give the possibility to open up collaborations and discuss possible solutions for the sector. Speakers from these project as well as from relevant European industrial partners and regulatory/institutional bodies will be involved. Expected Outcomes: 1. Trigger information exchanges between technology providers (academia & industry) and end-users about the challenges and emerging autonomous robotic solutions for nature conservation; 2. Networking and new collaborations among players in the field at national and international level; 3. A white paper stemming from the results of the workshop to highlight open issues, support new developments and stimulate further adoption of aerial robotics for conservation ecology.

Intended Outcome: Workshop expected to create a roadmap or white paper, Workshops engaging non-roboticists to understand needs/goals (policy, commercial, technical), Workshop discussion topics of common interest, success stories, use cases, etc

Approach: The workshop will be conducted with the following agenda – 00:00-00:05: Opening by organizers – 00:05-00:45: 5 invited talks (research, industry, regulatory) reporting their perspectives and experiences – 00:45-01:15: Roundtable session with panelists from academia, industry, and regulatory bodies to discuss solutions and open issues for nature conservation – 01:15-01:20: Concluding remarks by the organizers

Contributors: Invited speakers and panelists – Fabio Remondino, Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), Trento, Italy (WildDrone project) – Jesper Erenskjold Moeslund, ECOS, University of Aarhus (MAMBO project) – Manolo Garabini, Research Center “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa (Natural Intelligence project) – NN: Relevant European industrial partner – NN: Representative of relevant European regulatory/institutional body