A student-led research team is taking the drone concept to the high seas to save beleaguered sperm whales.
The project – a part of the student team’s senior-design course requirement — has launched a crowdfunding effort to build a drone system that can fly near sperm whales and gather data using advanced sensors.
Sperm whales are listed as a vulnerable species and face deadly threats from mass-beaching events, ship collisions and sound pollution (since the whales use sonic waves to communicate). Several studies project a species-wide calamity within the next 30 years.
The student proposal describes the project’s scope:
“Ultimately the aircraft shall carry instrument payloads capable of locating sperm whales in the ocean. The winged aircraft launches from the helipad of a research vessel and returns and lands safely on the ship. The unmanned aircraft flies reconnaissance missions and provides a search viewpoint from a 1,000 feet altitude. That search capability is much more efficient than binoculars and submersed microphone technologies of limited range.”
- Manual takeoff and landing with autonomous cruise flight;
- Take off and land on a stationary 9.1-meter by 9.1-meter simulated helipad area
- Have a 12 kilometer communication range
- Support downward facing simulated payload of 2 kilograms
- Recoverable in winds up to 10 meters per second
- Have a 100 kilometer ground track
The team hopes to reach a funding target of $10,000 to purchase aircraft materials, fuselage, a drone propulsion system and military-grade audio-visual arrays.
Drones have increasingly become valuable in marine biology research:
- Last year, Intel recently announced a partnershipwith Parley for the Oceans and Oceans Alliance to deploy Project Snotbot – a marine biology research project that allows drones to capture whale mucous from the blow hole as an indicator of the mammal’s overall health.
- In 2016, Fathom, a Michigan-based start-up, launched development of an aquatic, football-shaped drone with a model that can connect with a smart device to gather video or images underwater.
- In 2015, Search Systems Ltd., a leading UAV manufacturer in the UK, developed the Mariner 600, an unmanned multicopter with aquatic landing capability and interchangeable aerial and marine camera views.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content. He has won several media awards over the years and has since expanded his expertise into the organizational and educational communications sphere.
In addition to his proficiency in the field of editing and writing, Jason has also taught communications at the university level and continues to lead seminars and training sessions in the areas of media relations, editing/writing and social media engagement.