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Innovative use of drones for biodiversity project in Normandy forests

The ONF (French National Forestry Office), is an organisation that acts for the environment and protects French forests. Their protection missions are very extensive: preserving biodiversity, protecting water resources, preventing natural risks, guaranteeing the forest-game balance and safeguarding the historical and cultural heritage.

With the support of Goodman France as part of its sponsorship with the endowment fund ONF-Agir pour la forêt, the ONF has launched an innovative study of ponds in Normandy forests, using drone technology.

Pond preservation in Normandy

Ponds are a rich reservoir of biodiversity in terms of both fauna and flora. Next to providing a water resource for many animals, ponds are also the home of many different species of amphibians, insects and plants.

The quality of the photographs taken by the original ONF mapping tools did not meet the expectations of the ecologist and the manager. The increased need for more realistic and accurate mapping, i.e. “as close to the ground as possible”, led the ONF to the use of drones. Drones are not only able to take photographs at a low altitude, but also proved to be an ideal tool to explore ponds that were small, widely scattered or partly hidden by trees

Improve inventories with drones

A new observation project of ponds with drones was set up in the Roumare and Verte state forests, which have the Forêts d'Exception® label.

The data were collected in two stages: the first drone flight took place in spring to geolocate the ponds and to collect data characterising the physical environment and the maximum water level. The second flight, in September, established the zoning of the vegetation and the water level at low water.

Ponds action plan

Thanks to the studies carried out with the support of the drone, three measures will be adopted:

  • creating an action plan for the network of ponds
  • restoration work aiming at
    - recovering a sufficient volume of open water to create more biodiversity
    - removing waste from ponds
    - fighting against invasive exotic species
  • creating public awareness to better protect the ponds in the long term.


Office National des Forêts

The ONF is carrying out studies on a heritage of over a thousand ponds in the state forests of Normandy. This overview is part of a framework. In the course of history, people have settled near ponds or have often created these ponds to draw water or for some of their activities. Over time, they became abandoned and filled in. But for several years, the ONF has been implementing conservation measures to preserve them. The project is supported by the ONF and financed via the ONF-Agir pour la forêt endowment fund.