An inventory and evaluation of unmanned aerial systems for offshore surveys of marine mammals

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W. R. Koski
P. A Abgrall
S. B. Yazvenko


A literature review, internet searches and communications with personnel working with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were used to identify the capabilities of UAS throughout the world. We assessed their ability to replace manned aerial surveys for marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds and to monitor, in real time, sea ice and other physical features that might influence marine mammal distribution. The vast majority of the systems identified were either too expensive or their capabilities did not meet minimum standards necessary to perform the tasks required of them in real time. Eight systems were identified that might be able to perform some of the desired tasks. Several other systems had similar capabilities but had not been tested or would require upgrades. Installation of high-definition (HD) video and better stabilisation systems would improve UAS performance. It is recommended that development of HD video with real-time data transmission and improved stabilisation systems for UAS be pursued and that side-by-side comparisons of a few of the best systems be conducted.

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