Drones take whale science to new heights

Drone photography

Instead of standing on the shore with binoculars, scientists are turning to drones to monitor wild populations of whales off the US coast.

A hexacopter hovers 40m or more above the ocean, kitted out with a high-resolution camera to record valuable images of these huge beasts. Researchers can use these pictures to count the whales, but also to study their health and their behavior. This will allow a thorough survey of the gray whales living off California.

“We can’t put a gray whale on a scale, but we can use aerial images to analyze their body condition – basically, how fat or skinny they are,” said John Durban, a marine mammal biologist at Noaa Fisheries.

Drone shot

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