Though drones are often used as a tool for death and destruction, some wildlife preservationists are using them to save species and monitor the lives of animals without disturbing them in their natural habitat.

Julie Linchant, a graduate student at the University of Liège in Belgium, is just one researcher who has discovered how useful the stealthy flying cameras can be. The video above shows Linchant using a drone to track a family of hippos without scaring them off with the previous tool of choice, a helicopter. Linchant also monitors elephants, antelopes and other big animals in Garamba National Park, a place where poachers have been known to operate. Linchant tells New Scientist, “Drones are very silent, so you don’t disturb animals and you can find poachers discreetly. I think we could get great results.”

Not only are the remote controlled devices better for the animals and cleaner for the environment –they also save human lives. New Scientist reports that “According to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, 60 US biologists died between 1937 and 2000 from aircraft accidents, far and away the most common cause of death while in the field.”

(Photo: Nicolas Haftermeyer/Wikimedia Commons)