Like their reclusive namesake, Hawaiian monk seals have a home in remote, almost-impossible-to-reach parts of the Northern Hawaiian Islands.
Until recently, researchers wanting to track this endangered species braved dangerous treks over volcanic stones and coral reefs – at the very least until they unleashed the Puma, a military-grade, fixed wing drone put together by AeroVironment.
Hakai magazine writer Kim Steutermann Rogers reports that researchers aboard the Oscar Elton Sette recently deployed the UAV on the test flight. Using powerful zoom lenses, the drone can assist researchers identify and observe previously stenciled monk seals and also take measurements to remember growth and also birth rates.
The Puma sports a 10-foot wingspan – slightly bigger than two native birds, the truly amazing frigatebird as well as the black-footed albatross. This means that the drone’s presence isn’t more likely to scare away the seals because they are used to winged neighbors. DJI Phantom 3 Professional.
“The long-term vision is always to have a fixed-wing [UAS] aircraft on all research ships employed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well as a hexacopter on every island where there’s an area camp,” Lieutenant Michael Marino in the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Rogers.
For AeroVironment, your research program is simply another demonstration of how it is re-purposing military drones for civilian use. The company recently broke from the commercial sector after garnering a Section 333 exemption on the FAA. A few years ago, the U.S. government authorized BP to fly the Puma to conduct surveys in Alaska, declaring that “the Puma UAS is created with LiDAR along with sensor technologies realistically work to collect data and imagery of pipelines, roads and gravel pits.”
The Puma is truly one of many drones striking the high seas for research purposes. Perhaps the most visible project could be the hilariously-named Snotbot, a copter drone that will quietly and unobtrusively fly in to a whale’s spray of discharged water and mucus and find samples without harassing the whale. Students from Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass. designed the in partnership with Ocean Alliance. DJI Phantom backpack.
More recently, OpenROV Trident designed a splash from the crowdfunded waters of Kickstarter as a possible underwater, tethered drone intended for maritime exploration.