Drone flights will measure Arlington deer population

Arlington County, Virginia, will fly drones over the county to survey the white-tailed deer population beginning next week.

A county news release said that the drones will fly over Arlington, surveying the heat signatures of the deer, starting April 5. Flights will begin 30 minutes before sunrise and continue until 30 minutes after sunset, every day until the survey is done. The drones will not fly at night.

The survey could take up to two weeks, but that depends on the weather.

“We’ve all seen deer in the county at one time or another,” said Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s natural resource manager. “We’d like more than just anecdotal evidence. We want to clearly see how many and where they are so we can mindfully steward our natural resources.”

The drones won’t be used to identify people, as the thermal and infrared imagery will only pick up the heat signatures of deer, according to the release.

It said a study showed that drones have a 43-96% more accurate reading than on-the-ground or human-made counting. Montgomery County, Maryland, has used drones to survey deer populations in its county.

Arlington police will monitor the drones, which a subcontractor will operate. The information will be used to determine the county’s deer carrying capacity and for Arlington’s Forestry and Natural Resources Plan.

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