A new Maui-based program will be using drones to assist in helping large whale entanglements.
The freeFLY programs provides training, equipment, and management oversight to a network of local, Maui-based drone operators that are available to support the Hawaiian Island Entanglement Response network, which is coordinated by the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
As the number of fishing nets polluting the oceans have increased, so has the rate at which whales and other marine animals are getting caught up in the ghost gear.
The goal of the program is to safely free endangered humpback whales and other marine animals from life threatening entanglements, while gathering valuable information to reduce entanglement threats in the future.
The aerial program has been authorized under NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and is conducted by Oceans Unmanned, Inc., in partnership with NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and additional support from DJI and DARTdrones.
With the application of drones, the aerial view will allow responders an improved situational awareness, increased safety for the animal and the responder, and the ability to spot more animals that may be entangled in fishing nets.
Program administrators say the addition of aerial imagery from on-scene, vessel-launched drones will provide responders with improved situational awareness and increased safety for both the animal and responder.
DJI is donating Phantom 4 Pro Systems and accessories to the response program. The world leader in drones is known for it’s easy to maneuver systems and 4K resolution videos.
Oceans Unmanned, Inc, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that will facilitate the use of the drones and they promote a safe and environmentally conscious operation to protect the ocean.
With the application of this new and affordable technology, organizers are hoping they will be able to help cut-free whales in a much more efficient time frame, ensuring a better survival rate due to man-made interference.