Scientists Use Drones to 'Weigh' Wild Whales

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Scientists Use Drones to 'Weigh' Wild Whales

 

In the past, the only way that researchers could measure the weight of a particular whale was when it was dead. But with the use of a drone, they can work out the length, width, and height of the animal to determine its weight.

Recently, researchers have released aerial footage that shows the seawater located near Argentina. They flew a drone over a mother and baby southern right whale to work out how much they weigh. According to the Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market newspaper published in London in a tabloid format, the seawater was so clear and was in an ideal condition for taking photographs of the animals. Large groups of southern whales travel there to breed. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Through this, researchers could study more about what the whales eat, how certain stresses affect their health, how their bodies change over time, and many more. They have been using a DJI Inspire 1 Pro, a drone worth about £3,500, to capture 86 different whales off the coast of Península Valdés, a nature reserve in Patagonia. The technology is capable of flying more than three miles away from its controller. The images taken will be analyzed to determine the exact dimensions of both the top and the bottom of the whale. After that, the scientists can work out its volume.

 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

In an interview, Assistant Professor Fredrik Christiansen from Aarhus University in Denmark said, “Knowing the body mass of free-living whales opens up new avenues of research. We will now be able to look at the growth of known aged individuals to calculate their body mass increase over time and the energy requirements for growth. We will also be able to look at the daily energy requirements of whales and calculate how much prey they need to consume.”

 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

Through this new process, researchers will not be limited to dead samples. When whales die, there’s a high chance that the measurements will be distorted since the animals are either bloated or deflated. 
 

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