Since the emergence of drone technology, people have discovered various and amazing ways to use it. Thanks to them, some domains, jobs, and other activities have experienced a paradigm shift in how they are performed. For example, researchers have started using them to study whales in the coasts of Hawaii.
A group of scientists from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has recently returned from an extensive 30-day expedition. Its purpose was to find out how to better help sustain the populations of whales and dolphins which are found near the Hawaiian Islands. Gathering data on marine animals can be difficult even in normal weather conditions.
Instead of using small survey boats to study the animals as they usually do, in this expedition the scientists worked from a large ship. They explored the areas near Hawaii, where severe weather and intense wind can impede navigation and limit how long you can stay at sea.
In order to better observe and study the behavior of animals when they are not disturbed by human interference, the scientists decided to use a hexacopter drone. According to the leader of the research expedition, Erin Oleson, the drone allows them to get better images of groups of dolphins and whales without being disturbed by approaching boats.
“This is the first time that we’ve used (drones) as part of our research here in the Pacific islands, and it’s also the first time it’s been used to estimate group sizes.”
One major benefit of using a very maneuverable drone is getting images from a variety angles like bird’s eye view, which allows researchers to accurately count the number of whales in a pod, including those that prefer to stay underwater such as calves. They were even able to get more precise size estimates for each whale.
One other objective of the expedition was to take samples and attach satellite tags to various whales in order to monitor their movements. Observing their movements when hurricanes like El Nino are present, helps scientists understand the effects of climate change and warmer water temperatures.
For what purpose are you using your drone? What do you think drone technology should be used for?
Image source: NOAA