[MARMAM] New article on responses of dolphins and manatees to small unmanned aerial systems

Eric Ramos eric.angel.ramos at gmail.com
Wed Sep 12 10:08:31 PDT 2018

Greetings MARMAM,

My colleagues and I are pleased to announce the publication of our newest
article on the responses of dolphins and manatees to small drones out today
titled “Bottlenose Dolphins and Antillean Manatees Respond to Small
Multi-Rotor Unmanned Aerial Systems” in *Frontier's in Marine Science*: *Marine
Megafauna* as part of their research topic *Integrating Emerging
Technologies into Marine Megafauna Conservation Management*.

The article is open access and free to download below:


Ramos, E.A., Maloney, B.M., Magnasco, M.O. and Reiss, D., 2018. Bottlenose
Dolphins and Antillean Manatees Respond to Small Multi-Rotor Unmanned
Aerial Systems. *Frontiers in Marine Science*, *5*, p.316.


Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) are powerful tools for research and
monitoring of wildlife. However, the effects of these systems on most
marine mammals are largely unknown, preventing the establishment of
guidelines that will minimize animal disturbance. In this study, we
evaluated the behavioral responses of coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops
truncatus) and Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) to small
multi-rotor UAS flight. From 2015 to 2017, we piloted 211 flights using DJI
quadcopters (Phantom II Vision +, 3 Professional and 4) to approach and
follow animals over shallow-water habitats in Belize. The quadcopters were
equipped with high-resolution cameras to observe dolphins during 138 of
these flights, and manatees during 73 flights. Aerial video observations of
animal behavior were coded and paired with flight data to determine whether
animal activity and/or the UAS's flight patterns caused behavioral changes
in exposed animals. Dolphins responded to UAS flight at altitudes of 11–30
m and responded primarily when they were alone or in small groups. Single
dolphins and one pair responded to the UAS by orienting upward and turning
toward the aircraft to observe it, before quickly returning to their
pre-response activity. A higher number of manatees responded to the UAS,
exhibiting strong disturbance in response to the aircraft from 6 to 104 m.
Manatees changed their behavior by fleeing the area and sometimes this
elicited the same response in nearby animals. If pursued post-response,
manatees repeatedly responded to overhead flight by evading the aircraft's
path. These findings suggest that the invasiveness of UAS varies across
individuals, species, and taxa. We conclude that careful exploratory
research is needed to determine the impact of multi-rotor UAS flight on
diverse species, and to develop best practices aimed at reducing the
disturbance to wildlife that may result from their use.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at:
eric.angel.ramos at gmail.com


Eric Angel Ramos

Ph.D. Candidate Animal Behavior & Comparative Psychology

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

eric.angel.ramos at gmail.com

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