Drones with thermal cameras help in effort to save sea turtles from extinction

Thermal images of turtles
(Image credit: DJI)

The Department of Marine & Costal Resources in Thailand has been using DJI drones to search for – and protect – Leatherback Sea Turtle nesting sites. The turtles nest on the shore, and without the drones, can come and go before the scientists spot them, leaving eggs at risk.

In a video DJI shared, Dr Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, explains the need to identify and protect the remaining nesting sites, and how much more effective this approach is than searching on foot.

The thermal drones can help improve conservation efforts, and it is pleasing to see from the video that – in cooperation with locals – the team is having success in helping the Leatherback Sea Turtles lay their eggs again. When they survive, the Leatherback grows to be the largest turtle in the world. Its name comes from the fact that, unlike other turtles, it doesn't have a hard shell but instead a tough rubbery skin. It is estimated that there are only just over 2,300 adult females left

The Mavic 3T isn't the department's first drone; they've been using them for five years but the portability and improved resolution of the newer drone helps spot baby turtles from a height of 30m (100ft). The Mavic 3T has a thermal resolution of 640 x 512, and uses a variety of bright color palettes to make it easy to spot targets. The drone also has a 48MP 24mm EFL optical camera and a 12MP 162mm EFL camera which provides a hybrid zoom of up to 56x, and a useful side-by-side function on the display.

It certainly goes a long way to revealing how versatile the Mavic 3 Enterprise series is. When I undertook our Mavic 3 Thermal review, I concentrated on hide-and-seek (simulating search-and-rescue), but this is an altogether different area where the aircraft is improving efficiency.

If you're looking for a thermal drone of your own, check our guide to the best thermal drones or, for more traditional imagery, the best camera drone. Thermal imaging can also be helpful for DIY, as our best thermal imaging cameras guide reveals.

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook