U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



Jared A. Elmore http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5980-1561

Date of this Version



Elmore et al. Environ Evid (2021) 10:15



© The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Background: Small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are replacing or supplementing manned aircraft and groundbased surveys in many animal monitoring situations due to better coverage at finer spatial and temporal resolutions, access, cost, bias, impacts, safety, efficiency, and logistical benefits. Various sUAS models and sensors are available with varying features and usefulness depending on survey goals. However, justification for selection of sUAS and sensors are not typically offered in published literature and existing reviews do not adequately cover past and current sUAS applications for animal monitoring nor their associated sUAS model and sensor technologies, taxonomic and geographic scope, flight conditions and considerations, spatial distributions of sUAS applications, and reported technical difficulties. We outline a systematic map protocol to collect and consolidate evidence pertaining to sUAS monitoring of animals. Our systematic map will provide a useful synthesis of current applications of sUAS-animal related studies and identify major knowledge clusters (well-represented subtopics that are amenable to full synthesis by a systematic review) and gaps (unreported or underrepresented topics that warrant additional primary research) that may influence future research directions and sUAS applications.

Methods: Our systematic map will investigate the current state of knowledge using an accurate, comprehensive, and repeatable search. We will find relevant peer-reviewed and grey literature as well as dissertations and theses using online publication databases, Google Scholar, and by request through a professional network of collaborators and publicly available websites. We will use a tiered approach to article exclusion with eligible studies being those that monitor (i.e., identify, count, estimate, etc.) terrestrial vertebrate animals. Extracted data concerning sUAS, sensors, animals, methodology, and results will be recorded in Microsoft Access. We will query and catalogue evidence in the final database to produce tables, figures, and geographic maps to accompany a full narrative review that answers our primary and secondary questions.