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March 11, 2016
ANU Drone Radio Tracking Pioneer Gets Her Wings

Conservation biologist and global pioneer of drone radio tracking in research from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society Dr Debbie Saunders has completed Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) training this week to get her own UAV Controllers Certificate certified by CASA.

Dr Saunders played a key role in creating and testing the use of drone technology in a trial last year on Bettongs at the Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra.  Dr Saunders now plans to take the next step after passing her UAV licence today with Aviassist’s Chief Controller and Commercial Pilot Mr Ross Anderson.

Aviassist has a background in manned aviation and now offers a comprehensive consulting service for RPAS training and UAV drone operations.

Ross Anderson said he loves seeing drones being used more by field researchers and in conservation.

“Dr Saunders is showing that with the right training and the right UAV, a smart field researcher can revolutionise their research by surveying large and complex areas quickly and at low cost,” Anderson explained.

“You could have done the same thing 10 years ago by hiring a helicopter but it would have cost you a fortune, drones are bringing the cost and complexity of aviation down to the point where it can be in the kitbag of every field researcher,” Anderson said. “Helping Dr Saunders and others like her achieve their RPAS certification to fly safely and reliably is one of the great perks of my job.”

Dr Debbie Saunders has enjoyed the experience of working at the cutting edge of what is possible in working with drones, and pushing the boundaries in using drones for field work in conservation and threatened species research.

“It’s great to be at the forefront in developing the tools for the field biologists of the future,” Dr Saunders said.

“Being able to get certified and fly the drone yourself is a challenge, but is surprisingly accessible and has rewards for allowing my research to be much more flexible,” explained Dr Saunders.

“I’m looking to do this sort of thing on a regular basis, so it makes sense to get certified and make sure I’m doing it safely and reliably,” Dr Saunders said. “The drone is really just a low cost way of getting my sensors to work.”

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