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Drone offers real-time snapshot of wildlife, climate on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Updated: Feb 9, 2023 China Daily Print
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LANZHOU — Modern technology is enabling Chinese scientists to develop a better understanding of the vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau through the integration of drone-based internet of things into the monitoring of the region's environment.

The innovative system has been deployed to retrieve data on wildlife, phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena) and the environment on the vast and remote plateau via integrated technology and devices.

A joint research team made up of researchers from multiple institutions — including the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP), the Lanzhou University of Technology, Lanzhou University and the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources at the Chinese Academy of Sciences — has improved the previous drone-based internet of things system by integrating it with ecosystem monitoring devices.

Data is remotely retrieved by drones.

The innovative system is able to sustain high-efficiency data transmission from remote regions, shedding light on real-time ecosystem monitoring and protection on the plateau, according to Li Xin, a researcher at ITP.

"Known as the 'Roof of the World' and also as 'Asia's Water Tower', the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is very important to the ecology and the environment," Li said.

There are high hopes that real-time ecosystem monitoring will help give researchers a full understanding of the complex interactions between ecosystems on the plateau.

This kind of monitoring can be achieved through the in situ deployment of multiple devices, such as automatic weather stations for environmental variability monitoring and infrared cameras for wildlife population dynamics and behavior monitoring.

However, the challenge of collecting and transmitting the massive amounts of data generated from remote and often extreme areas with no network coverage remained, so the team of scientists turned to drones, the internet of things and environmental monitoring devices to solve the problem.

The first results indicated a data transmission rate from the drone relay to the terrestrial terminal of between 10 to 15 megabytes per second, enough to make it possible to transmit images and videos.

The team also introduced a signal strength-based priority strategy that helps reduce the time needed for transmission between the relay and terminal.

So far, they have successfully managed the drone-based, high-speed remote data transmission of data on blue sheep, spruce trees and other environmental aspects of the Qilian Mountains at the northern edge of the plateau.

The study proposes a new sci-tech solution to data retrieval in very remote areas, where the ground network is absent or remote and hard to reach, Li added.


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