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“Eagles Nest" – development and assessment of UAV supported technologies and data capture for extensive beef production across northern Australia

Did you know that using drones to monitor animal production can triple the return on investment?

Project start date: 03 November 2017
Project end date: 12 June 2019
Publication date: 25 September 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
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 A key challenge in adopting digital information tools across extensive grazing enterprises is developing cost effective methods for remote monitoring of livestock, infrastructure and land productivity.

This project evaluated the potential for autonomous drones to monitor pasture, livestock and infrastructure for extensive beef properties across northern Australia.

Imagery and data collected from the drones were used to demonstrate the viability to support the assessment of land and pasture condition, the location of livestock and condition of fences.


The primary objectives of this project were to detail data capture and management opportunities for drone technology integrated into a red meat value chain, and evaluate different technology combinations to optimise the efficiency of data collection and analysis.

Key findings

  • The project has demonstrated, for the first time, the capacity for remote identification of pasture species using digital information tools.

  • 'Sentinel Satellite' imagery can be used as a low-cost assessment tool for a more accurate pasture and biomass assessment.

  • There is significant potential to use autonomous drone platforms to verify the status of water infrastructure, fence lines for breakages, gate positions and cattle location.

  • Improvements in stock productivity, pasture and labour management provided a high level of return, with a return on investment of between 185 to 345% over five years.

  • Unfortunately, restrictions on operating beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) remain the biggest barrier to both commercialisation and industry adoption of this technology.

Benefits to industry

The capacity to accurately obtain data in the areas of pasture management and infrastructure management provides significant opportunities to improve land and livestock management.

MLA action

Obtaining BVLOS permission from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is a challenge for producers and has restricted the adoption and extension of the technology.

In July 2019, a more streamlined approach to BVLOS applications was announced by CASA. MLA is working with industry bodies to create an easy process for producers to apply for BVLOS permission and purchase the drones to help increase the rate of adoption.

Future research

Future research opportunities include the integration of new pasture identification and biomass analysis methods to further improve land and animal management systems. This will allow for improved stocking rate management, resulting in greater overall productivity.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Hitachi Australia Pty Ltd