Conservation charity's remotely controlled device safeguards reintroduced species and monitors endangered breeds
The Guardian, Sunday 11 May 2014 17.52 BST
Military technology used to hunt down insurgents in Afghanistan has been taken up by Britain's biggest nature conservation charity to safeguard some of the country's rarest birds.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is using a remotely controlled drone to spy on the nests of endangered breeds and monitor the progress of reintroduced species.
It was created by Nigel Butcher, the charity's answer to James Bond's lethal gadget inventor Q, at its new Centre for Conservation Science in Sandy, Bedfordshire. "A lot of our stuff filters down from military use," Butcher said. "We built the 'copter about a year ago and have added bits and pieces to it since, like radio tracking, thermal imaging and wide-angle cameras."
Breeding patterns of bitterns and marsh harriers can be seen without disturbing precious habitat, and the RSPB is also using the drone to monitor how cranes and corncrakes are faring as they are reintroduced to the UK.