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Goebel M.E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Perryman W.L.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Hinke J.T.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Krause D.J.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 3 more authors.
Polar Biology | Year: 2015

Quantifying the distribution and abundance of predators is integral to many ecological studies, but can be difficult in remote settings such as Antarctica. Recent advances in the development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), particularly vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, have provided a new tool for studying the distribution and abundance of predator populations. We detail our experience and testing in selecting a VTOL platform for use in remote, windy, perennially overcast settings, where acquiring cloud-free high-resolution satellite images is often impractical. We present results from the first use of VTOLs for estimating abundance, colony area, and density of krill-dependent predators in Antarctica, based upon 65 missions flown in 2010/2011 (n = 28) and 2012/2013 (n = 37). We address concerns over UAS sound affecting wildlife by comparing VTOL-generated noise to ambient and penguin-generated sound. We also report on the utility of VTOLs for missions other than abundance and distribution, namely to estimate size of individual leopard seals. Several characteristics of small, battery-powered VTOLs make them particularly useful in wildlife applications: (1) portability, (2) stability in flight, (3) limited launch area requirements, (4) safety, and (5) limited sound when compared to fixed-wing and internal combustion engine aircraft. We conclude that of the numerous UAS available, electric VTOLs are among the most promising for ecological applications. © 2015, The Author(s).


Taylor J.K.D.,New England Aquarium | Kenney R.D.,University of Rhode Island | LeRoi D.J.,Aerial Imaging Solutions | Kraus S.D.,New England Aquarium
Marine Technology Society Journal | Year: 2014

Marine aerial surveys are designed to maximize the potential for detecting target species. Collecting data on different taxa from the same platform is economically advantageous but normally comes at the cost of compromising optimal taxon-specific scanning patterns and survey parameters, in particular altitude. Here, we describe simultaneous visual and photographic sampling methods as a proof of concept for detecting large whales and turtles from a single aircraft, despite very different sighting cues. Data were collected for fishing gear, fish, sharks, turtles, seals, dolphins, and whales using two observers and automated vertical photography. The photographic method documented an area directly beneath the aircraft that would otherwise have been obscured from observers. Preliminary density estimates were calculated for five species for which there were sufficient sample sizes from both methods after an initial year of data collection. The photographic method yielded significantly higher mean density estimates for loggerhead turtles, ocean sunfish, and blue sharks (p < 0.01), despite sampling a substantially smaller area than visual scanning (less than 11%). Density estimates from these two methods were not significantly different for leatherback turtles or basking sharks (p > 0.05), two of the largest species included in the analysis, which are relatively easy to detect by both methods. Although postflight manual processing of photographic data was extensive, this sampling method comes at no additional in-flight effort and obtains highquality digital documentation of sightings on the trackline. Future directions for this project include automating photographic sighting detections, expanding the area covered by photography, and performing morphometricmeasurement assessments.


Grant
Agency: Department of Commerce | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 350.00K | Year: 2010

NOAA uses large-format aerial film cameras to collect data for monitoring marine mammal populations protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Historically, the major users of these cameras have been the military and government agencies. As these users move to newer technology, manufacturers are ending the production of aerial films and camera parts. Consequently, NOAA requires a digital camera system that will deliver high resolution aerial imagery equivalent to the imagery they currently gather. In Phase I, Aerial Imaging Solutions designed a multiple digital camera, forward motions compensated mount and control system to fill NOAA’s sampling needs. Additionally, we produced a prototype of the design. The prototype was approved for flight by NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and test flown by both the National Marine Mammal Laboratory Steller Sea Lion group and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Photogrammetry group. The results exceeded all expectations, confirming the feasibility of replacing NOAA’s aerial film cameras with the proposed system. For Phase II, we propose to deliver two commercial-quality FMC mount systems to NOAA researchers.


Grant
Agency: Department of Commerce | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 75.00K | Year: 2009

NOAA uses large-format aerial film camera systems to collect data for the monitoring of marine mammal populations protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Historically, the major users of these cameras and film have been the military and government mapping agencies.  As these users move to newer technology, manufacturers are ending, or severely cutting back, the production of aerial films and camera repair parts.  Consequently, NOAA requires a digital camera system that will deliver high resolution aerial imagery equivalent to the imagery they currently gather.  Aerial Imaging Solutions proposes to design a multiple digital camera, forward motion compensated, stabilized mount and control system to fill NOAA’s sampling needs.  The Phase I goal is to develop a prototype that will match or exceed the image quality and coverage of the venerable film camera systems NOAA now uses.


Trademark
Aerial Imaging Solutions | Date: 2015-12-14

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

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