Botanist Drone Pilot
Image: KITV/Allen Media Broadcasting

In Hawaii, described by many as the endangered species capital of the world, botanists are employing drones to discover and protect rare and endangered plants in inaccessible locations. With over 100 plant species already extinct, this technology is crucial in the race against time to save the state’s unique flora.

Drones allow botanists to survey vast areas efficiently and safely, eliminating the need for dangerous cliff rappelling. The National Tropical Botanical Garden’s drone program, started in 2016, has been enhanced with a robotic arm that can retrieve plant cuttings for nursery cultivation. Soon, drones will also be able to return plants or seeds to their original habitats.

As Hawaiian plants face mounting pressures from feral ungulates and development, the use of drones is essential in locating and conserving wild populations to maintain genetic diversity and prevent extinction. This innovative approach offers hope in the ongoing struggle to protect Hawaii’s threatened plant species.

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