Conservation Drones

Conservation Drones

Suriname is one of the smallest countries in South America but it still has large tracts of undisturbed forests and rich wildlife. It is also the least densely populated countries in the world with 95% of this population concentrated in the capital city of Paramaribo.

The interior is uninhabited and covered with undisturbed tropical forest, making Suriname one of the best places for conservation. Suriname has an axcellent protected area network, and plans are under way to expand it even further.

Suriname's diverse fauna includes at least 674 species of birds, 200 species of mammals, 130 species of reptiles, 99 species of amphibians, more than 300 freswater fish and at least 50 species of brackish water fish.

The Central Suriname Nature Reserve (CSNR) established in 1998, covers 1.6 million hectares of pristine tropical rainforest in Suriname.
Recognised as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO for its biodiversity richness, the fauna and flora of this protected area remains largely to be inventoried. The complex geological and physical formations of the area is difficult to monitor and thus, CSNR is a challenge to make an efficient forest management plan and to identify the pressure of human activities on the reserve ecosystem health such as logging and mining. It is especially a problem as the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management (RGB) lack of manpower and financial resources.
Management of the reserves and enforcement of legislation is a challenge as the areas are vast and illegal activities are difficult to detect. Wildlife conservation is costly, and time- and labor-consuming. 

Project goals

The objective of this pilot project is to support the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) within the government by monitoring the CSNR in order to identify the priorities for action in terms of management of the area.
Conservation drones will be useful to capture detailed high-resolution images of objects on the ground and complete database on species populations, on the health of habitats and on poaching activities.
Conservation drones are an effective new tool being used in other countries to combat wildlife crime.
Conservation drones are cheap and simply made. At the core, they are model aircrafts fitted with autopilot systems. Each contains a small computer chip equipped with a GPS, barometric altimeter and other sensors, and carries a payload such as a video or photographic camera. The software allows a user to program the drone easily on an open-source Google Maps interface, and the drone even lands itself. All told, one drone costs no more than a decent laptop.


CI Suriname will provide the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management (RGB)  two fixed-wing drone systems and relevant trainings to start up drone capacity for monitoring CSNR. The finality of the project is to produce a drone monitoring plan for CSNR.

Conservation Drones will enable the Nature Conservation Division to:

  • provide information on what kind of data is needed to monitor and manage CSNR, which areas to be monitored, and existing databases that can be linked or integrated;
  • facilitate on-site and off-site training for the use of conservation drones;
  • appoint responsible personnel for the use of the drones and the analysing of data;
  • and facilitate half yearly inspection visits from the company manufacturings the drones, Ready-to-Drone LLC.


  • Nature Conservation Division within the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management
  • The company Ready-to-Drone LLC who will provide the drone

What are Conservation Drones?

Conservation Drones are low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used for:

  • surveying wildlife
  • monitoring and mapping terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • supporting the enforcement of protected areas

 Conservation Drones are capable of:

  • autonomous flight
  • flight time of 30 minutes to over an hour
  • range of 30 km to over 50 km
  • acquiring high resolution photographs of up to 1-2 cm per pixel
  • acquiring high definition video footages of up to 1080p at 60 fps
  • producing geo-rectified 2D photo-mosaics and 3D Digital Surface Models of surveyed areas



Our projects

From our blog

  • Drones help rangers monitor Central Suriname Nature Reserve.

    Period: January 26th – February 4th 2015

    CI-Suriname organized a drone training for the Ministry of RGB, especially the Game wardens of the Nature Conservation Division (LBB/NB). The goal of this training was to train the game wardens how to use a drone for monitoring purposes, so it could help them in their work as the enforcement of the nature protection acts in Suriname.
    With the help of the drone they should be able to map areas of interest and detect threats in a relative simple and quick way.
    The drone that was used was developed by Conservation Drones, a company in the USA specialized in the development of drones which are used for biodiversity monitoring. The trainer is Jeff Kerby who works for Conservation Drones and uses drones himself for biodiversity research and filming. Nine game wardens participated during the training, but two of them were trained as pilot and co-pilot. The theoretic parts of the training took place at the CI office and the practical training was held at different locations.
    The participants were trained in the use of a fixed-wing drone, which looks like an airplane and it needs an open area to take off and land. The participants learnt how to set up the drone and make it ready for use. They also learnt how to plan missions on the computer, because the drone is always connected to a computer and a radio controller.
    The drone can be programmed to fly a mission independently without the pilot, which is called an auto mission. The pilot can always take the flight over when he sees that there is something wrong and land the drone manually.

    The group went to different places to exercise with the drone to get used to the different conditions in the field. The exercise locations were Weg naar Zee (near the crematorium), Rijsdijk dirt track, Boven-Coesewijne Nature Reserve and Brownsberg nature park. During the exercises there was also some mapping, so the participants could see what the drone’s capacities are.

    Some nice 3D-maps were produced of the Weg naar Zee and Brownsberg areas. The participants and the trainer were happy after this training, because the trained pilot and co-pilot were able to fly the drone independently in relative difficult conditions successfully. Overall the training was a success, because all the participants learnt a lot about drones. The game wardens were enthusiastic and were very involved during the training. The group could also go to the different locations easily, because NB made a number of cars available for the training. The training in the field was filmed by CI and the filming company Forward Motion. In about six months the second part of the training will take place where the focus will be on monitoring the CSNR. In the mean time the goal is that the trained pilot and co-pilot who have some experience now will train another pair of game wardens as pilot and co-pilot. It is planned to officially hand over the two drones with all the equipment and a laptop to the Ministry of RGB on February 26th, 2015.