Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Meet a One-Eyed, Six-Legged, Flying Whale Chaser

Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 22 March 2013 Time: 02:51 PM ET

Low, slow and loud — counting marine life by plane has some drawbacks. Though scientists can cover wide swaths of ocean, engine noise may disturb animals and the surveys always present some risk to pilots and crew.

So some biologists are turning to less obtrusive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to spot species including whales, dolphins, sea lions and penguins. From small helicopters to planes with a 10-foot (3 meters) wingspan, the battery-powered craft could become a popular new tool.

"What makes these things so effective is they capture a tremendous amount of information," said NOAA marine biologist Wayne Perryman, based at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.

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