In this week’s Humpback Chronicles, Flip responds to a question submitted by John K. who asks, “Are you using drones yet to do your research and if not why not?”
The Whale Trust research team uses drones, under permit, for humpback whale research. Drones provide us with a birds-eye-view to observe behavior that would otherwise be impossible to see at the water line, and to collect non-invasive measurements (e.g., relative size using photogrammetry techniques) and biological sample collection (respiratory droplets from a whale’s blow) for our hormone studies.
Whale Trust operates drones under research permit granted by NMFS. Because drones are now readily available to the public, we encourage private operators to familiarize themselves with current policies for drone use near marine life. Federal law requires aircraft to fly no lower than 1,000 feet above humpback whales in Hawaii. For more information, please visit NOAA Fisheries Marine Life Viewing Guidelines.
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