Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG 2015

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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12 unmanned systems inside   September/October 2015 NEW ENGLAND— Scientists are using an unmanned aircraft as a sort of air- borne "breathalyzer" to help ascertain the health of endangered whales. Researchers successfully f lew a re- mote-controlled hexacopter over a group of whales to first take high-resolution photos and then swoop down to suck in samples as the whales came up for air and exhaled. They were able to analyze the DNA, hormones, and bacteria in the breath samples to determine the whales' family history, stress levels, and health. The photos provided insight into the marine mammals' general well-being and body condition such as fat level and skin lesions. Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOA A) conducted the experiment in July in the Stellwa- gen Bank National Marine Sanctu- ary off New England. They gathered samples from humpback whales using a 32-inch-diameter, 6-rotor copter rigged with a specialized camera system. The unmanned aircraft, more commonly called a drone, flew 125 to 150 feet above sea level to get full-body photographs of 36 animals. It then dove down to 10 feet above sea level to collect 20 breath samples from 16 whales. The breath samples will provide in- sight into the condition of the whales' respiratory tracts, the most common source of cetacean disease. The re- searchers next plan to gather samples from the same whale species living near the Antarctic Peninsula. By comparing the samples from the whales living in the relatively pristine conditions near the South Pole, to those from Stellwa- gen, whale scientists hope to better understand the impact of ship traffic, fishing and pollution. Flying "breathalyzer" tests health of endangered whales Top left photo courtesy of Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Photo courtesy of John Durban, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA; and Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Photo acquired under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 17355-01 and NOAA Class G flight authorization 2015-ESA-4-NOAA Photo courtesy of Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Photo acquired under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 17355-01 and NOAA Class G flight authoriza- tion 2015-ESA-4-NOAA The hexacopter fies through a whale spout to collect samples. In addition to health factors, photographs taken by researchers using the hexacopter also captured whale behaviors such as these two humpbacks engaging in bubble-net feeding. NEWS & ANALYSIS

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