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SML > Research People > Alan Wilson > CARDyAL

CARDyAL: Co-Operative Aerodynamics and Radio-based DYnamic Animal Localisation

Project overview – new tools for a new area of research flock of pigeons

Measuring the detailed movement and relative location of individual animals within groups has, up to now, not been possible in most situations. The CARDyAL project has been designed to open a new field of research in this area, and in so doing to develop tools and methods that can be used in many other applications.

The aim is to do this by:

  • designing new lightweight and minimally obtrusive devices (tags) to record detailed data on the location and activity of free ranging animals and birds
  • developing the new analytical methods necessary to make optimal use of the data collected
  • testing and validating these in a number of relevant real-world situations.

Animals move in groups for a number of different purposes such as to avoid predation, to facilitate hunting, to conserve energy during ranging and for navigational benefits. Being part of a group may have costs as well as benefits to the individual. The ability to measure the detailed movement dynamics of individuals within a group has profound implications for a number of different fields including wild animal conservation, food animal management, management of facilities and the design of buildings. In addition to this, an understanding of what happens in natural groupings will inform the development of new ways to improve flow and reduce energy consumption in human environments such as workplaces and public facilities.

Finally, the incorporation of empirical data from natural systems into the computer models used to design complex systems, computer graphics etc (see Particle Swarm Optimisation in the Technology and Analysis Page) will allow naturally evolved group relationships and behaviour to inform the design of artificial systems.

This work has implications for disease control, animal conservation, food animal management and a number of other fields.


CARDyAL is a major four-year project funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

It is a collaborative project between two research groups: University College London Computer Science Department (Stephen Hailes, Professor of Wireless Systems, and John Shawe-Taylor, Director, Centre for Computational Statistics and Machine Learning) and the Structure & Motion Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College (Alan Wilson, Professor of Locomotor Biology and Jim Usherwood, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow).

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