Oceans Unmanned, Inc., in partnership with NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS), with additional support from DJI and DARTdrones, unveiled a new initiative designed to provide aerial support using small drones for large whale entanglement response efforts off of Maui, Hawaii. The freeFLY program provides training, equipment, and management oversight to a network of local, Mauibased volunteer drone operators that are available to support the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network, led by HIHWNMS. The Network’s goals are to safely free endangered humpback whales and other marine animals from life threatening entanglements, while also gathering valuable information that will reduce entanglement threats in the future.
The addition of aerial imagery from on-scene, vessel-launched drones will provide responders improved
situational awareness and increased safety for both the animal and responder. “Cutting free a 45-foot, 40-ton free swimming animal is not an easy task; it can be dangerous. Drones may likely play an important role as they are a valuable tool toward reducing the risks involved in this type of effort,” said Ed Lyman, NOAA Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator. “As a public reminder, it is important to understand that response to entangled whales involving a close approach (less than 100 yards) may only be attempted by persons authorized under permit by NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program”
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