The drone counts were generally between 43 and 96 per cent more accurate than the numbers reached by the ground-based ecologists. The results have been published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
The experimenters believe that their research shows that drones will have a useful place in measuring populations of seabirds or other ocean life such as dolphins and seals.
Using drones to monitor species numbers is not yet a settled conclusion. Scientists are yet to determine the extent to which animals are disturbed by the presence of a drone buzzing overhead (efforts are already underway to make quieter, less intrusive drones).
In any case, with many species on our planet on the edge of extinction, the need for researchers to be able to accurately count the number of animals or species in a given area is critical. Drones, it seems, may become another important tool in ecologists efforts to monitor and try to halt the decline of many different animal populations.