By Callum Booth
The way drones are used rapidly veers between the uplifting (humanitarian aid!) and the downright depressing (air strikes!). Luckily though, this story is in the former camp.
The folks over at – deep breath here – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (wow) and Oceans Unmanned (that’s better), are using drones to help save whales. Great news.
Unless you’re Icelandic, maybe.
Deeply involved in this project is Ed Lyman, the man with the world’s best job title: Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator. He fulfils this role for NOAA and has been working in this field for the past 25 years.
He explains that many whales get entangled in fishing gear, which can severely injure them and regularly leads to death. These animals – which are around 45 feet long and weight 40 tons (just like your momma) – are far from easy to release from these situations. The work can be dangerous and is incredibly taxing for both the whales and people involved.
This is where Oceans Unmanned comes in. The non-profit – founded by Matt Pickett five years ago –has begun helping by bringing in drones. In a nice way.
The technology lets the responders asses the whale in question’s situation and status, meaning when they approach the animal it’s just to cut it free – reducing the danger to the crew and the creature.
What I love about this project is that it’s happening right now. Whales are being saved as you read this. With drones’ sinister reputation, it’s pleasant to see them being used to save lives, rather than end them.
I hope everyone at NOAA and Oceans Unmanned are having a whale of a time with this project.
I’m in such a good mood, I’m not even sorry about the pun.
Callum Booth is a writer for The Next Web.
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