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Southern California will soon welcome thousands of gray whale mothers and calves as they migrate south along the coast to their wintering grounds in Mexico’s lagoons. We have seen a significant rise in the use of drones on our coastline. And whale-watching boats are also using more drones to attract customers.
As the gray whale migration excitement ramps up this year, AliMoSphere is providing the first ever conservation-focused Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or drone) training program for UAS pilots to learn how to fly responsibly in marine habitats, and is concurrently releasing the best practices guide that advises drone pilots on how to fly responsibly and safely in and around marine wildlife.
AliMoSphere was launched in the beginning of 2017 with the primary goal of developing America’s first set of UAS guidelines that are focused on protecting marine wildlife from irresponsible drone use. With the help of a task force made up of state, national, and international advisors the comprehensive set of guidelines detailing responsible flight practices in marine habitats will be release in October 2017. The founders of AliMoSphere are FAA licensed UAS pilots that fly under contract or can teach drone pilots to fly for conservation or business.
When drones graduated from mere military use to invaluable marine research tools we quickly learned that they're far cheaper to fly than airplanes are, and much more eco-friendly. And drones are a less invasive way to study animals compared to the traditional research methods. Drones are also able to quickly retrieve high-quality data while reducing time spent with the animals. Marine biologists all around the world now use drones to study marine mammals, seabirds, and fishes.
In December - as the gray whales arrive - another favorite native marine mammal, the harbor seals, that use the Children’s Pool located in La Jolla, will be pupping on the beach. And not far from them the California sea lions use The Cove as a haul-out (a beach or rocks where seals or sea lions rest). All places people would like to use drones.
We point out that a good rule of thumb is to never fly a drone where seals or sea lions are hauled out, because drones scare mother seals and sea lions badly enough that they will stampede and either crush or abandon their pups as a result of fleeing away from the drone. And no pilot wants to cause a mother to abandon or kill her newborn pup. We are committed to ensuring that drone pilots understand how flying over a marine habitat can impact the wildlife.
We suggest that if you decide to fly a drone along the coast, you respect the wildlife. If you do get the opportunity to fly over a gray whale, do not fly below 20 meters or 65 feet, since that distance will ensure you will not disturb their natural behavior. And if you do get good footage, you can upload your coverage to Aerial Whale, a Facebook page dedicated to tracking the use of drones over whales all around the world.
We are sharing a few of our UAS best practices Quick Tips:
AliMoSphere protects our ocean heritage by using science, technology, and art. If you would like more information about conservation drone training programs or would like to hire AliMoSphere to fly for you, please email Alicia Amerson at firstname.lastname@example.org