Protocols for drones in Kakadu

By Tom Ravlic

November 29, 2021

Drone protocols to monitor flora and fauna in Kakadu National Park have been developed. (

Protocols for the ethical use of technologies such as drones to monitor flora and fauna in Kakadu National Park have been developed under the leadership of a team led by representatives of First Nations.

These protocols are a part of a project for culturally appropriate and responsible use of technology in the region that has involved traditional owners, First Nations ranger groups, and researchers from Charles Darwin University, the CSIRO and the University of Western Australia.

The project is led by an Indigenous research steering committee and the objective of the project is the development and application of healthy country indicators in Kakadu using technologies.

Motion sensors and video cameras are other technologies that are used to monitor the status of flora and fauna in addition to drones.

Dr Jennifer Macdonald, a Charles Darwin University researcher, is the principal author of new research that examines how drone use in Kakadu is being managed by First Nations peoples.

Macdonald’s research interests include Indigenous land and sea management strategies and country-based planning, and Indigenous research development.

“The aim of this project is to enable First Nations rangers and traditional owners to use technology to monitor country before and after management interventions to improve the health of country,” Macdonald said.

“It is a collaborative research project that is empowering traditional owners to design and implement responsible technology use to monitor indicators of healthy country.”

Macdonald said that drones offer a range of possibilities for the monitoring of wildlife and flora but limited work had been done to ensure it was done in a culturally sensitive manner.

“Digital tools can enable people to make faster decisions about emerging and escalating threats to their country, and drones are widely used to understand what’s happening during management interventions,” Macdonald said.

“We need to think about how technology can help us care for country and manage issues such as weed invasion and fires. But we also need to be careful how we do that in a responsible and culturally respectful way.”


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