WHOI, NOAA Scientists Team Up with Drone to Monitor Whales

whaleWOODS HOLE – Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration teamed up last month to use a new non-invasive method of whale monitoring in Stellwagen Bank.

The previously difficult task of obtaining breath samples from the mammal’s spouts is now completed using a six-rotor, 32-inch remote control copter fitted with specialty equipment and a camera.

In July the scientists successfully hovered the specialty craft at 10 feet above sea level to obtain 20 breath samples, as well as 36 photographs from higher altitudes.

The samples gathered will be analyzed for particular micro-organisms which live in the mammals’ respiratory tracts and can cause cetacean disease.

The results will also provide key insight into whale DNA, hormones, family history, stress levels and bacteria.

The scientists are reportedly planning on using the hexacopter next winter in the Antarctic Peninsula, where they will measure resident whales there and compare the results to the whales inhabiting the more trafficked waters of Stellwagen Bank.

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