Drone Footage is Playing an Essential Part in Antarctic Whale Research

Drone footage collected in Antarctica gives critical insights on the behaviour of whales.

Every season, humpback and minke whales migrate towards the Antarctic Peninsula to feed on the swarms of krill before the sea ice freezes. An international team of marine biologists including Dr. Ari Friedlaender, Associate Professor at Oregon State University at the Marine Mammals Institute, and the scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division travel with One Ocean Expeditions, the leader in facilitating polar research onboard small expedition cruises, to Antarctica to conduct science on Antarctic whales.

Research on marine mammals is still in its infancy. Drones are ideally suited for capturing marine mammal data and give unique insights in their feeding and social behaviour, particularly in this Eco sensitive and challenging environment without disrupting them. Data and analyses can be downloaded immediately.

“In order to see how healthy the whales are and literally how big they are, we use UAS (unmanned aerial systems) commonly referred to as drones.  By flying a small copter over whales when they are at the surface we can make very precise measurements of the length and girth of the whale.  By comparing measurements of whales at different times of the year we can begin to understand when the whales are gaining weight and successfully feeding”, explains Ari Friedlaender.

Dr. Ari Friedlaender points out the importance of his work on a global scale. Considering how the rapid warming around the Antarctic Peninsula is affecting sea-ice cover and consequently the Antarctic whales’ habitat, researchers can now have an understanding of the impact that humans are having the diverse ecosystem of Antarctica.

“This success would not be possible in any way without the logistic, intellectual, and material support by One Ocean Expeditions. Beginning with the decision to support research and through the extraordinary foresight and leadership of the Expedition Leader we were able to accomplish an extraordinary successful research expedition”, so Ari Friedlaender.

Permit number for drone: ACA Permit 2016-024, 2017-034

For a decade, One Ocean Expeditions is successfully supporting internationally renowned research organizations in the Polar Regions.