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Drones Offer Ability to Find, ID, and Count Marine Megafauna


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North Carolina State University researcher Enie Hensel with a drone at a research site in The Bahamas.

North Carolina State University researchers have shown that consumer drones can be used to monitor marine species in the wild.

Credit: Duncan Brake

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers demonstrated that consumer-grade drones can effectively monitor marine species across multiple sites in the wild.

The research shows drone technology can be a valuable platform for scientists and conservationists interested in studying populations of marine megafauna.

The team evaluated multiple sites, indicating that drones can be used to assess environmental variables that may influence population differences between locations; drones also proved effective at sites with varying degrees of water clarity.

The researchers tested the drones' effectiveness by placing fake sharks underwater at two sites with different water clarity, and they were able to identify all of the decoys at both sites via drone footage.

Said NC State's Enie Hensel, "Our surveys provide baseline data for marine megafauna abundances within these newly established parks and we show that drones offer a new management tool for the park service of the Bahamas."

From North Carolina State University
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