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Open AccessTechnical Note
Remote Sens. 2017, 9(6), 543; doi:10.3390/rs9060543

The Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Marine Mammal Research

1
New Zealand Institute of Applied Ecology, School of Applied Science, Auckland University of Technology, 46 Wakefield, WU Building, 1010 Auckland, New Zealand
2
New Zealand Conservation and Spatial Innovation Lab, School of Science, Auckland University of Technology, 46 Wakefield, WU Building, 1010 Auckland, New Zealand
3
TriOceans, Marine Research and Technology Institute, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
4
Applied and Environmental Sciences Department, NorthTec, 0148 Whangarei, New Zealand
5
Coastal Marine Research Group, Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, 0632 Albany, New Zealand
6
School of Sport and Recreation, Auckland University of Technology, 0627 Northcote, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Deepak R. Mishra and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 14 March 2017 / Revised: 18 May 2017 / Accepted: 26 May 2017 / Published: 30 May 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2396 KB, uploaded 31 May 2017]   |  

Abstract

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, are finding applications in several ecological research areas since remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) technology has ceased to be a military prerogative. Fixed-wing RPA have been tested for line transect aerial surveys of geographically dispersed marine mammal species. Despite many advantages, their systematic use is far from a reality. Low altitude, long endurance systems are still highly priced. Regulatory bodies also impose limitations while struggling to cope with UAS rapid technological evolution. In contrast, small vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS have become increasingly affordable but lack the flight endurance required for long-range aerial surveys. Although this issue and civil aviation regulations prevent the use of VTOL UAS for marine mammal abundance estimation on a large scale, recent studies have highlighted other potential applications. The present note represents a general overview on the use of UAS as a survey tool for marine mammal studies. The literature pertaining to UAS marine mammal research applications is considered with special concern for advantages and limitations of the survey design. The use of lightweight VTOL UAS to collect marine mammal behavioral data is also discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: unmanned aerial systems; marine mammal abundance surveys; photogrammetry; photo-identification; cetacean behavior unmanned aerial systems; marine mammal abundance surveys; photogrammetry; photo-identification; cetacean behavior
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Fiori, L.; Doshi, A.; Martinez, E.; Orams, M.B.; Bollard-Breen, B. The Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Marine Mammal Research. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 543.

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