Using unmanned aircraft systems to monitor seabirds

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has won permission to test an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) off the Olympic Coast of Washington.  But don’t worry; they’re not using them to spy on us.  Instead, NOAA is planning to use the UAS to take high-def video of seabird colonies, as well as to search for tsunami debris.  The 9-foot unmanned aircraft is better suited for this than traditional aircraft because it makes much less noise and is therefore less disruptive to the seabirds.  In addition, the drones are much less expensive and much safer than manned aircraft.

NOAA drone in flight. Photo Credit: Ed Bowlby / NOAA

NOAA drone in flight. Photo Credit: Ed Bowlby / NOAA

Murre Colony

Photos of Common Murre colony taken by the NOAA drone. Photo credit: NOAA

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has acquired a similar UAS in hopes of also doing seabird colony research. However, that project is currently facing difficulty obtaining a permit from Federal Aviation Administration and remains on hold.

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