Robots in biodiversity: Solutions for conservation, sustainability, and ecological research

Robot Tech


Robots in biodiversity: Solutions for conservation, sustainability, and ecological research

Catherine Bernier
Content Manager
Content for Cobot

Discover how the fusion of robotics and environmental science is setting the stage for a new era in biodiversity conservation

The application of robotics in the field of biodiversity presents innovative solutions to complex environmental challenges. Disciplines in biodiversity encompass efforts in conservation, sustainable farming, and ecological research. 

This article explores the current roles of automation in supporting biodiversity, examining the advantages and limitations of these technological tools, the variety of robots deployed across different initiatives, and key considerations for integrating robotics within this sector. 

Current applications of automation in biodiversity

The integration of robotics into efforts to preserve and enhance biodiversity is not just a concept for the future— it is happening now across a range of activities from research and monitoring to active intervention in ecosystems. Here, we explore some of the key areas where automation is making an impact.

Species monitoring and data collection

Robotic systems, especially drones and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), are revolutionizing the way we collect data on species and their habitats. These robots can access remote, challenging terrains, from dense tropical forests to deep oceanic environments, collecting data on species populations, health, and behavior without the need for human presence, which can sometimes disturb sensitive habitats.

This approach offers extensive data collection capabilities over vast areas and difficult terrains, enabling more accurate and timely conservation decisions. It also reduces the risk to human researchers in potentially hazardous environments. However, despite their efficiency, these robotic systems require significant investment in terms of both development and operation. Moreover, interpreting the vast amounts of data collected can be challenging and demands sophisticated analytical tools.

Pollination assistance

With the decline of natural pollinators such as bees, robotic pollinators have been developed to assist in the pollination of crops and wild plants. These robots, designed to mimic the actions of bees, can help maintain plant populations and genetic diversity within ecosystems.

Robotic pollinators can operate under conditions where natural pollinators might struggle, ensuring the continuation of pollination processes essential for plant reproduction and ecosystem health. The technology is still in its early stages, and there are concerns about its effectiveness and potential impacts on natural pollinator populations. The ecological consequences of widespread use of robotic pollinators continue to be studied.

Invasive species control

Robots are being employed to identify and remove invasive species from ecosystems, both on land and in aquatic environments. These robots can work tirelessly to control populations of species that threaten biodiversity, using physical removal methods or administering targeted treatments with minimal impact on native species. 

This targeted approach allows for the efficient removal of invasive species with minimal disturbance to the ecosystem, offering a scalable solution to a growing problem. However, the specificity required to distinguish between invasive and native species poses a significant challenge, requiring advanced recognition technologies. There is also the risk of unintended consequences to the ecosystem through the removal process.

Habitat restoration

Robotic systems are aiding in habitat restoration projects by planting trees, spreading seeds, and creating structures that support ecosystem recovery. These robots can work in areas that are inaccessible or dangerous for humans, facilitating the restoration of ecosystems at a larger scale and at a faster pace than previously possible.

Automation in habitat restoration can significantly speed up the recovery process, allowing for the restoration of larger areas in a shorter timeframe. however, the cost of developing and deploying these robots can be high, and the technology must be carefully managed to ensure that restoration efforts are ecologically appropriate and beneficial.

Types of robots used in biodiversity efforts

In addressing these varied applications, several types of robotic systems have emerged as particularly useful.

Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Used extensively for monitoring wildlife and habitat conditions from above, drones and UAVs offer a bird's-eye view that can cover large areas quickly. 

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

Critical for marine biodiversity studies, these robots explore underwater ecosystems, collecting data on marine life and the health of aquatic environments. AUVs are critical for monitoring and reporting on underwater environmental impacts of actions we take above ground.

Robotic pollinators

Though still in developmental stages, these small robots mimic the behavior of bees and other pollinating insects, aiming to assist in the pollination of plants. Most available models look similar to mobile robots with an attached arm, but small bee-like drones can be found in experimental stages.

Automated weeders, planters, and harvesters

In sustainable farming contexts, these robots help manage crop health and remove invasive plant species without harming the crops or using harmful chemicals. These robots take many forms but are typically mobile and may include appendages depending on the task.

The use of robotics in biodiversity conservation and enhancement is a rapidly evolving field, offering innovative solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges. However, careful consideration of the costs, technological requirements, and potential ecological impacts is essential for ensuring that these tools contribute positively to the preservation and restoration of the planet's diverse ecosystems.

Major considerations before investing in biodiversity robots

Robot for underwater exploration

Robot for underwater exploration and monitoring


The integration of robotics into biodiversity conservation efforts presents a promising frontier for enhancing environmental protection and research. However, before committing to such technological solutions, several critical factors must be evaluated to ensure the successful and responsible application of robotics in this field.

Ethical and ecological impact assessment

Understanding the potential impacts of robotic interventions on ecosystems is paramount. It is essential to conduct thorough ethical and ecological impact assessments to ensure that the deployment of robots does not inadvertently harm the environments or species they are meant to protect. The goal is to complement natural processes, not to interfere with or disrupt them unnecessarily.

Technological compatibility and integration

The integration of robotic systems into conservation efforts requires compatibility with existing monitoring and management tools. Ensuring that new robotic technologies can seamlessly integrate with current data collection and analysis methods is crucial for maximizing their effectiveness and for the coherent interpretation of the collected data.

Cost-effectiveness and funding

The development, deployment, and maintenance of robotic systems can be costly without a thorough understanding of costs and potential returns. Organizations must evaluate the cost-effectiveness of these investments, considering not only the initial outlay but also ongoing operational expenses. Securing sustainable funding sources is critical to support the long-term application of robotics in conservation efforts.

Training and capacity building

The successful deployment of robotics in biodiversity requires skilled personnel capable of operating, maintaining, and interpreting the data generated by these technologies. Investing in training and capacity building is essential to ensure that conservation teams can fully leverage the benefits of robotics.

Regulatory compliance and data privacy

Navigating the legal landscape is another crucial consideration. Regulatory compliance regarding the use of robotic and autonomous systems in natural environments must be thoroughly understood and adhered to.

Scalability and adaptability

The ability to scale and adapt robotic solutions as projects evolve is vital. Conservation challenges and priorities can change, necessitating flexible and scalable technological solutions that can be adjusted or expanded in response to new information or shifting environmental conditions.

The future for robots in biodiversity and conservation

The future of robotics in biodiversity conservation and environmental research is poised for transformative growth, promising enhanced capabilities in ecosystem monitoring, genetic sampling, and active ecosystem restoration. Advanced monitoring technologies, powered by AI, are expected to enable real-time detection of environmental changes, aiding in rapid response to threats like illegal logging or sudden biodiversity losses.

Robotics may also take a more hands-on role in restoring habitats, managing wildlife conservation more interactively, and even assisting in climate change mitigation efforts through projects like optimized carbon sequestration. Moreover, the potential for collaborative robot networks spanning diverse environments could revolutionize data collection, providing a comprehensive understanding of ecosystem health and threats. 

This technological evolution in robotics not only signifies a leap forward in our capacity to preserve and restore biodiversity but also offers new avenues for public engagement and education, bringing the wonders of remote and inaccessible ecosystems closer to the global community. The integration of robotics into biodiversity efforts underscores a forward-looking approach to environmental stewardship, leveraging innovation to ensure the resilience and sustainability of our planet's natural resources.

What’s next?

You may be ready to take the next step towards including robots in your biodiversity and conservation efforts, but where do you start?

The HowToRobot platform connects buyers of automation with a variety of suppliers in a streamlined, easy-to-use environment. 

Post your project on HowToRobot today for free, and begin receiving offers from vetted, relevant automation vendors from our supplier network.