Characterisation of a new lightweight LoRaWAN GPS bio-logger and deployment on griffon vultures Gyps fulvus

Jethro Gauld, Phillip W. Atkinson, João P. Silva, Andreas Senn, Aldina M. A. Franco

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Abstract

1. Information provided by tracking studies using remote telemetry is providing ecologists with invaluable new insights into animal behaviour and movement strategies. Here we describe a new type of GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) tracking device currently under development and nearing commercialisation, which transmits data via LoRaWAN (long range wide area network) gateways. These tags have the potential to be a low weight and power consumption solution for tracking the movement of animals at high resolution. 2. We characterise the position accuracy and data transmission range, including uplinks and downlinks, for the tracker using a series of ground-based field tests. Data transmission range was tested by visiting locations with line of sight to the LoRaWAN Gateway at distances up to 75 km and recording whether data transmission was completed successfully from each location. These tests were complemented by a trial deployment of six devices on griffon vultures Gyps fulvus. 3. These LoRa tags reliably provided accurate position estimates, particularly on more frequent acquisition cycles. At 1-min intervals the GNSS location bias was 4.71 m in the horizontal plane and 5 m in the vertical plane while precision, measured by standard deviation, was 3.9 m in horizontal space and 7.7 m in vertical space. Ground-based range tests confirmed data transmission from a maximum distance of 40.7 km. Initial results from a deployment on griffon vultures yielded useful information about flight speeds, altitude, and transmission range (up to 53.4 km). 4. With consistent GNSS position accuracy and the ability to transmit data over tens of kilometres, the LoRa tags demonstrated potential for monitoring animal movement over large areas. The small size and power needs of the device allow for flexibility in which combination of battery, solar panel, and housing they are paired with. The tags can be assembled in housing formats ranging in size from less than 5 g for deployment on Kestrel sized birds to 80 g for deployment on large birds such as vultures. The devices are particularly suitable for philopatric (site-faithful) species because LoRa gateways can be installed near breeding sites to maximise opportunities for data transmission. Our findings are informative for studies seeking to use LoRa for tracking birds and other animals using the miro-Nomad or a different type of GPS-LoRa logger.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalAnimal Biotelemetry
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Animal movement
  • Biologging
  • GPS tracking
  • LPWAN
  • LoRa
  • LoRaWAN

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