Whale-tracking drones help scientists monitor orcas

By on November 5, 2014

Unmanned aerial drones have a lot of uses in environmental monitoring, from aiding conservationists to keeping track of agriculture. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is using them for another purpose, according to TreeHugger: whale tracking.

Drones are a good tool for the effort because they can circle high above whales and keep out of earshot. The high-altitude approach is good for taking snapshots of whale girth, a marker of a healthy diet, without disturbing them.

Researchers with NOAA have so far used drones to successfully study killer whales off the coast of Canada. Using a custom-built hexacopter, they’ve captured 30,000 images over just 60 flights. Scientists say the technology will help them identify unhealthy whale conditions earlier, as well as aid in forming future conservation plans.

Top image: An orca jumping out of the water near East Poiont, Saturna Island. (Credit: Miles ritter, via Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

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