Scientists and technicians have thought of a new way of helping the sea mammals: dolphins and whales in the Hawaiian Islands have been photographed for the first time from a hexacopter drone. This new machine makes researcher’s study easier, by taking photographs of the sea mammals in their natural environment.
Keeping track of the sea life is important for the ecosystem. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists know this for sure, as they have just returned from an expedition meant to capture images of whales in the Hawaiian Islands. The area is problematic because of the winds, and, as whales are rare there too, the task gets even more difficult.
The hexacopter drone made their research easier. During the expedition, which lasted for a month, the research team stayed on a boat, at sea, gathering and analyzing the data sent from the hexacopter. The machine was used here for the first time, and team leader Erin Oleso is pleased with the results.
The drone improved the scientists’ work quality because they were able to get data about how sea mammals socialize. The image they captured made it possible for them to get information about a whale pod (which they encountered twice), about their reproduction habits, and about the situation of mothers and their babies.
This is important information because, usually, groups of mammals are hard to track: they tend to spread when researchers’ boats get too close. However, thanks to the drone, the mammals were free to move around and act naturally.
Another of Olsen’s achievements with this expedition is that they were able to monitor individual whales, as well. Getting information on their habits and reactions to natural phenomena or climate changes helps scientists discover ways of protecting them from extinction.
The research team has encountered several species of whales: killer whales, beaked whale, and they were also about to discover a new species of beaked whale, but they lost track of the animal before getting all the information they needed.
All in all, it was a successful and rewarding experience. Scientist Oleso states that the extinction of these mammals can have damaging effects on the aquatic food chain. He states that there are over 20 species of whales and dolphins around the Hawaiian Islands, which means they have to be protected. Now, thanks to the hexacopter drone, they are one step closer to achieving it.
Image source: Wikipedia