While traveling to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, the Agumbe rainforest gives shelter to one of the species of gliding lizards belonging to the genus Draco found in Asia. These are magnificent and cryptic and famously referred to as the flying dragons of the animal kingdom. Measuring a palm length, they launch from treetops and spread their wings like Batman’s cape. They can cover distances over 100 times in less than a few seconds. At the time of landing, the gliding lizards reorient themselves like a parachute on their intended target tree.
Everything was observed to understand the mystery behind the effortless and well-choreographed gliding behaviour, using the extraordinary gadgets.
Let’s discuss the amazing gadget to help unravelling the mysteries of the flying dragon!
- 7 GoPro cameras’ drown
- 2 Wi-Fi GoPro trigger remotes
- a Canon DSLR
- multiple camera lenses
- 7 heavy duty tripods
- 8 memory cards
- 8 walkie-talkies
- 7 high capacity power banks
- an anemometer
- countless charging and data transfer cables
- an optically stabilizing binocular
- 4TB external hard drive
The game was fully set to track the lizards with the 7 GoPro cameras, 5 are mounted on tripods and 1 each on the takeoff and landing trees to record a glide from different angles. For continuous charging, the camera was connected to a power bank. The walkie-talkies were hung on the tripod for recording audio notes (ambient temperature, wind speed, animal behaviour). The Wi-Fi remote would trigger start and stop recording for all the cameras. For network connectivity, the cables were underlayed together. The complete gadget system has to work and stitch all the views together and produce three-dimensional position data.
How technology helps to study Flying Dragons gliding behavior?
GoPros cameras are ultra-portable and rugged which are capable of handling extreme conditions. In the hot tropical weather, one or more of the cameras would invariably overheat and automatically switch off. For a fix, it was sourced with plastic plates as personal umbrellas for each camera. Even the plates were painted white to reflect sunlight. After all the tactics, each camera had a personal cooling system with a safety net to prevent any harm to the lizard from the spinning blades. The cameras have been so arranged so that they could run for more than 4 hours without powering off.
Using tripod poles and a metal tong, it was easy to track the lizards, high up in the trees. A long pole with a horseshoe shaped wire was attached to the tong at one end which was wrapped with a thick soft padding and a string was connected to the horseshoe shaped wire. This whole system when wrapped around the tree trunk, would force the lizard to climb downwards.
Using a DSLR camera was ultimate to capture qualitative behaviour data and all the pretty pictures of the mechanism. The complete technology based system or we can say, drone has helped a lot to view and track the flying dragon and its gliding behavior.