During the 2019 breeding season (October-December), a battery-powered DIJ Inspire 2 drone was used to investigate a breeding southern elephant seal colony located at Patelnia Point (ASPA 128, King George Island, South Shetland Islands, maritime Antarctica). Twelve unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) missions conducted 50–70 m above ground level (AGL) were completed to monitor the breeding ground with a maximum of 0.348 km2
. The missions were planned in Pix4D Capture software. A drone, with the support of ground cameras and observations, was used to derive population counts, map harems, and track the phenology of the southern elephant seals. Based on data obtained from the UAV missions, orthophotomaps were created in PIX4D Mapper and then analyzed in QGIS. Calculated values of body size parameters such as body length and orthogonal body surface area were used to determine the age and sex of individuals. Analysis of the ranges of the harems on particular days, supported by an analysis of land conditions that generate physical barriers to the movement of animals, allowed zones in which the transformations of groups of harems took place to be determined. The hypothesized hermeticity of the designated zones was supported by statistical tests. The use of drones allows for comprehensive population analyses of the breeding colonies of elephant seals such as censuses of pups and adult individuals, determination of the sex ratio, and spatial analysis of the distribution of breeding formations. In addition, it allows for a more accurate result than ground counting.
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