Typically, when studying gray seal pup populations, researchers send manned aircraft to gather the aerial imagery they need.
Along with their manned Twin Otter aircraft, the team flew NOAA’s APH-22 hexacopter and the senseFly fixed-wing eBee on Muskeget Island off Nantucket, the largest gray seal breeding and pupping colony in the U.S. Their goal was to not only study the breeding sites and get a better feel for how many gray seals there are in Northeastern waters, but also to compare the UAS platforms to manned aircraft.
Julian Dale, lead UAS engineer at Duke University’s Unmanned Aircraft System’s group in Beaufort, North Carolina and his team have completed these types of seal surveys in Canada and brought their experience to this project. A survey Dale and his team completed in Nova Scotia would have cost about $80,000 if manned aircraft were deployed. The cost with UAS? About $10,000.
This article provides some insights into the logistics of operating in a remote location and the relative strengths of the two drone platforms. Once again it is clear that the ebee senseFly’s premium software makes a significant contribution to ease of use.