Drone exploration of bat echolocation: A UAV-borne multimicrophone array to study bat echolocation

Christian Jespersen, David Docherty, John Hallam, Carsten Albertsen, Lasse Jakobsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Multimicrophone array techniques offer crucial insight into bat echolocation, yet they severely undersample the environments bats operate in as they are limited in geographic placement and mobility. UAVs are excellent candidates to greatly increase the environments in which such arrays can be deployed, but the impact of UAV noise on recording quality and the UAV's behavioral impact on the bats may affect usability. We developed a UAV-borne multimicrophone setup capable of recording bat echolocation across diverse environments. We quantify and mitigate the impact of UAV noise on the recording setup and test the recording capability of the array by recording four common Danish bat species: Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Myotis daubentonii, Eptesicus serotinus, and Nyctalus noctula. The UAV produces substantial noise at ultrasonic frequencies relevant to many bat species. However, suspending the array 30 m below the UAV attenuates the noise to levels below the self-noise of our recording system at 20 kHz and above, and we successfully record and acoustically localize all four bat species. The behavioral impact of the UAV is minimal as all four species approached the array to within 1 m and all emitted recordable feeding buzzes. UAV-borne multimicrophone arrays will allow us to quantify bat echolocation in hitherto unexplored habitats and provide crucial insight into how bats operate their sonar across their entire natural habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9577
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume12
Issue number12
Number of pages8
ISSN2045-7758
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • bats
  • echolocation
  • microphone array
  • source level
  • UAV

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