Endangered Whales Get a High-Tech Check-Up

Scientists from the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division of NOAA/SWFSC are partnering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to study the health of endangered whales—using hexacopters. This spring, a research team led by WHOI biologist Michael Moore and NOAA researchers John Durban and Holly Fearnbach sailed out into Cape Cod Bay in search of North Atlantic right whales feeding just off the coast. They used a remotely controlled, six-rotor hexacopter to take detailed aerial photographs of the whales and collect samples of their “blow”—the moist breath that a whale sprays out of its blowhole when it exhales. Together, the photos and blow samples will enable the researchers to determine their health and condition.

Read the full article and see the amazing images the hexacopter took of these rare whales. The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer


Overhead photograph of a North Atlantic right whale
Overhead photograph of a North Atlantic right whale, taken from an unmanned hexacopter >140ft above the whale. Measurements will be combined with onboard altitude logs to estimate whale lengths and monitor growth, and body condition will be inferred from shape profiles. Research approach of whales using the hexacopter was authorized by NMFS permit #17355 and flights were authorized under an MOU between NOAA and the FAA (Class G MOU # 2016-ESA-3-NOAA).

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