Why Drones have an Important Role to Play in Marine Conservation

We know all about the possible applications of drone technology. But from incredible aerial photography to FPV Racing, many of these uses are recreational in nature. While that's no bad thing, it's always good to see stories of drones being applied to make a positive difference in an industry or situation; some of the bigger questions facing humanity could sure do with a little help. One such area is climate change or, more specifically in this case, ocean conservation...

Often the most important starting point of any conservation effort, on land or at sea, is having a thorough understanding of what is going on. Only after gaining that understanding can you begin to help solve the problem. This is where drones come in. There's nothing better to turn to when in need of, quite literally, a clearer perspective.    

UK-based marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has been using drones to document its missions around the world, and this week posted a video, featuring incredibly rare footage of an endangered Blue Whale and its calf. Sometimes raising awareness is an environmental act in itself. “Filming this endangered blue whale and her calf with a drone was unbelievable. Spotting a blue whale from the deck of the Steve Irwin is a thrill, but being able to film the biggest animals on the planet from the air is truly awe-inspiring,” said Gavin Garrison, drone pilot for Sea Shepherd. 

National Geographic is currently funding research in Antarctica, observing the effect that climate change, less ice and less prey is having on the behaviour of Killer Whales. In a first for Antarctica, researchers are using a hexacopter to film and take pictures of Orcas from over 100 feet above the water’s surface. The drone is equipped with an altimeter to record height, allowing the team to scale the photos  down and use them to keep track of the growth and general condition of whales from year to year. From this new perspective, they’re also hoping to watch the whales hunting and learn more about their prey preferences.  

Using an unmanned hexacopter hovering over 100 feet above the water, John Durban and Holly Fearnbach took this aerial photo of killer whales in Antarctica in January 2016 to measure their size and body condition.

Using an unmanned hexacopter hovering over 100 feet above the water, John Durban and Holly Fearnbach took this aerial photo of killer whales in Antarctica in January 2016 to measure their size and body condition.

We recently featured an underwater drone being used to monitor Great White Sharks near Guadalupe. The drone is called REMUS, and can follow the sharks underwater autonomously, filming as it does so.

Not only do research projects such as this use drones to keep people out of danger, they offer an up-close-and-personal perspective of animals we need to help conserve. The better we understand their behaviour, the better we can educate and raise awareness. From both above and below the surface, drones certainly have a role to play in marine conservation. If only we could make them less appetizing...   

REMUS, and a hungry/curious shark

REMUS, and a hungry/curious shark