Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are becoming more and more common in daily life or scientific research, that´s just a fact. Though not everytime is their deploying really a significantly beneficent, because choosing of the ideal configuration and technical equipment can be sometimes difficult for inexperienced person, there´s definitely more than a few examples of successful applications. Actually, we already published some posts about interesting and well done aerial survey, mapping, thermography applications and so on. Well, today I would like to continue with this topic line and this post is going to be about another great scientific wildlife research with the UAS, this time in Hawaii. One of the most important advantages of using the drones for such purpose is that the fragile environment is not harmed in any way with this survey method. That is pretty much what also scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service realized when they launched the UAV called Puma in order to explore the ecosystem and animals on the Northern Hawaiian islands.
The Puma UAS seemed to be a great tool for examining wild animals like monk seals, sea turtles, sea birds and vegetation on islands and coastline areas. Between June 16 and 23 was done seven flights done by this aircraft and the research was continuing even during a next week. The results was reportedly very promising and scientists have gathered many useful data about a Hawaiian wildlife. Actually, this project wasn´t piloting at all, NOAA was already testing UAVs for wildlife research before. In June of 2013, NOAA has begun testing an unmanned aircraft system in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary that could allow researchers to observe animals at relatively close range with minimal disturbance, and possibly locate marine debris in remote areas. After this succes, the researchers intend to continue with the UAS survey. The realized very good that using the drones can help them a lot with their conservation and resilience mission. They hope that the NOAA would use these aircrafts for a variety of mission more regularly in future and significantly reduce possibility of harming the environment. Moreover, as you can imagine, making photos of monk seals and examinig their behavior must be much easier done by a small aircraft from above than manually from a common ship.
The NOAA´s team has even specially-trained pilots for such mission. They controlled the drone, six kilograms weight Puma, equipped with real-time video and still photo capability. Its flight time is commonly up to two hours with covered area about eighty square kilometres. The scientists also aim to use a NASA´s Ikhana UAS for interesting comparison. Ikhana can surely provides them a better quality of sensors and taken images, as same as a longer range. After that, the scientific team want to juxtapose collected data as well as with traditional survey methods or satellite data in order to assess the best use of this technology for survey in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Well, I wish them best of luck with further research and look forward to next outstanding pictures of the world´s wildlife heritage. I find this research project to be great example of how can be UAVs beneficent no only to the society but in fact they can help even to the nature and its protection.