The greatest advantage of drones is the ability to go places that are too remote or dangerous for a human being. The military exploits this advantage to run missions deep in enemy territory. Wildlife conservationists use UAVs to monitor and protect fragile species in danger zones across the planet.
Outside the U.S., groups like the World Wildlife Fund are protecting elephants and rhinos from armed poachers in remote parts of Kenya and Nepal with a squadron of surveillance drones paid for by Google [source: Qiu].
Even in the U.S., where regulations are tight, the U.S. Geological Survey won permission to use a retired military drone to monitor a flock of greater sage grouse in Colorado. The 4-pound (2-kilogram) Raven A drone can take photos and thermal images of the birds without disturbing their breeding grounds [source: Hood].
In places as diverse as west Greenland; the seas off the coast of Belize; and the jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, conservationists are using drones to map hard-to-reach habitats, monitor the health of migrating whales, track fish populations and protect orangutans from illegal logging. One ecologist told National Geographic, "A forest that would normally require one to two weeks to survey can be done in a few days using a drone" [source: Qiu].