Use of Unmanned Aerial System to assess wildlife (Sus scrofa) damage to crops (Zea mays). Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems 10.1139/juvs-2016-0014
Damage caused by ungulates to agricultural areas are difficult to evaluate because the real extent of the damage remains usually poorly described and potentially arising conflicts. Recent advances in unmanned aerial system (UAS) provide new versatile mapping and quantification possibilities in a wide range of applications. We used crop fields (Zea mays) damaged by wild boar (Sus scrofa) and compared the extent of the damage by means of three methods: i) traditional ground-based assessment ii) UAS orthoimages with operator delineation and iii) UAS Crop Height Model with automatic delineation based on height threshold. We showed for the first time that UAS could be applied for assessing damage of ungulates to agriculture. The two methods using UAS imagery provide coherent and satisfactory results and trended to underestimate the damage area when compared to in-use ground-based field expertise. However we suggest that performance of UAS should further be tested in variable conditions in order to assess the broad application of this tool. Our study describes the potential of UAS as a tool for estimating more accurately the damage area and subsequently the compensation costs for wildlife damage. The proposed approach can come in support of local and regional policies for the definitions of compensation for farmers.