Update from Dr. Fearnbach in Piedras Blancas

SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach and colleagues from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center have had a successful start to their gray whale health assessment project off Piedras Blancas Lighthouse near Big Sur, CA. This is the third year of this project and this year they are flying a new drone, an octocopter (Aerial Imaging Solutions), that allows them to fly farther from shore and stay in the air longer. They are using this drone to collect high resolution vertical images of the whales as they migrate past the lighthouse on their way to productive feeding grounds in the Arctic. These images will be analyzed to estimate size and evaluate body condition and will be compared across years. They are only halfway through the project and have already flown 26 flights over 20 female/calf pairs and 9 juveniles. And the weather looks gorgeous next week!

Image showing Dr. Holly Fearnbach holding the octocopter (left); Overhead images of a female/ calf gray whale pair (right) as they migrate along the coast of Central California. Image taken using an unmanned octocopter at an altitude of >150ft above the whale, with research approach authorized by NMFS permit # 19091. Credit: Durban, Fearnbach; NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Image showing Dr. Holly Fearnbach holding the octocopter (left); Overhead images of a female/ calf gray whale pair (right) as they migrate along the coast of Central California. Image taken using an unmanned octocopter at an altitude of >150ft above the whale, with research approach authorized by NMFS permit # 19091. Credit: Durban, Fearnbach; NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.