Rescue from mowers
Every year in Germany, several hundred thousand wild animals are hit, mutilated or killed when meadows are first mowed in springtime — whether fawns, baby hares, pheasants, partridges or other ground nesters (Fig. 1). For a long time, all attempts failed to spare animals this fate.
Fig. 1: A fawn concealed by high grass
Between 1999 and 2020, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen has developed and tested a large number of methods and prototypes using remote sensing technology to detect and subsequently safeguard fawns and ground nesters in the meadows. The systems all make use of the heat -- infrared radiation – emitted by the animals, which is higher than that of the surrounding meadow, given suitable surveillance conditions.
Concepts and platforms
Fig. 2: The portable Infrared Wildlife Finder in use
Because it is portable, the Infrared Wildlife Finder is extremely useful when searching for fawns, but it is not very satisfactory for use with a tractor. This is because mowing usually takes place in warm, sunny weather. But at such times the meadow itself has considerably heated up at some locations. Since the Infrared Wildlife Finder reacts to temperature differences, these warm places in the grass also prompt a response from the equipment. For a farmer busy at work frequent false alarms are, however, unacceptable.
Fig. 3: Test assembly for tractor-mounted wildlife finder systems
Rapid technological progress in the area of small, unmanned aerial vehicles has also made them attractive as a platform for wildlife rescue systems.
Fig. 4: Flying Wildlife Finder
Technology transfer, spin-off company
With support from DLR Technology Marketing and the Helmholtz Association, DLR researcher Dr. Martin Israel founded in 2020 together with a partner the start-up company thermal DRONES GmbH to market, among other products, the Flying Wildlife Finder. With this spin-off DLR’s over 30-year technology development path to remote-sensing based wildlife rescue has come to a successful conclusion.
Numerous reports in the press and TV broadcasts about DLR activities related to efficient animal protection document their societal relevance. Their high innovativeness is confirmed by over 10 patents and a number of awards: