Unmanned Aerial Systems for counting penguin


Aircraft and helicopters continue to play vital roles in the oceanographic sciences. However, there are a number of oceanographic applications where these large, expensive, loud, and hydrocarbon fuel based platforms can be replaced with far simpler, cheaper and cleaner unmanned airborne assets.

This project is aimed at designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or hexacopter for surveying penguin colonies in the Southern Ocean.

Population counts over the long-term are necessary to establish the status and trend of a species. However, such counts are limited by logistic constraints, especially in remote areas.  Because penguins breed in dense colonies, the best and safer method to reliably monitor population is counting penguins from aerial pictures. However, taking pictures with an helicopter is costly and need to be done with precaution to avoid disturbing penguins. Sampling disturbance and carbon footprint should be minimized because penguins are likely to be under pressure due to climate change and other threats. An electric (battery) powered UAS with a high resolution imaging capability provides a quiet and inexpensive alternative for such an application.

This project is funded by WHOI - Access to the Sea and led by Hanumant Singh.

Collaborators:  Hanumant Singh, John Bailey, David Fisichella and Henri Weimerskirch.

Check our blog for the field hexacopter experience in French sub- Antarctic Island!

King penguin colony at Crozet Island and

test of the hexacopter with Alexandre and Joan