Reef Aid

Trialling the use of drones in riparian restoration

This project identified cost-effective ways to use drones in wetland and riparian restoration projects, including monitoring, weed spraying and seed dispersal. Restoration of these habitats is important for improving water quality, repairing wildlife environments, and for community enjoyment.

This project was delivered on the Traditional Country of the Wanyurr-Madjandji, Yidinji, Bindal and Darumbal Peoples, in the Great Barrier Reef catchments near Cairns, Townsville, and Yeppoon.

The Challenge

Riparian and wetland restoration projects are an important part of improving coastal ecology, for Great Barrier Reef water quality and for local wildlife. These projects often involve controlling invasive species and planting native species to restore the vegetation community.

Projects in these areas are often constrained by site access due to boggy terrain and safety issues such as crocodiles. Limitations of cost can prevent upscaling of efforts, as project sites are often remote. Using drones may help address these limitations; however, the most cost effective and best practice methods for using them in restoration projects are not well understood.

The Solution

Drones are being used more widely in environmental work and are becoming more accessible and cost effective. There is potential to use drones for monitoring, targeted weed control, and seed dispersal in riparian and wetland restoration.

In this innovative project, we conducted a series of trials to compare drone applications to manual efforts for monitoring, weed control and seed dispersal. The comparison aimed to identify when it would be most effective to use drones – and when would not.

Team members from Greening Australia, QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mulgrave Landcare, and Wanyurr-Majay Aboriginal Corporation working together to conduct drone trials.


In these trials we found that using drones was more cost effective than manual approaches for weed treatment and monitoring, and that further investigation is needed into revegetation by drones.

This project is part of Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Greening Australia is delivering this project in collaboration with Mulgrave Landcare, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Wanyurr-Majay Aboriginal Corporation, Burdekin Shire Council, Gudjuda Rangers, James Cook University, Aerial Image Works, Drone That, Livingstone Shire Council, Surfrider Foundation and Fitzroy Basin Association. 

For more information about this project or any of our programs, please send us an online query.