[MARMAM] New publication on Behavioural Responses of Small Cetaceans to Drones

Joana Castro jmadeiracastro at gmail.com
Tue Jan 12 08:52:54 PST 2021


 Dear all,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce and share our recent paper
titled* Assessing the Behavioural Responses of Small Cetaceans to Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles. *

Castro, J.; Borges, F.O.; Cid, A.; Laborde, M.I.; Rosa, R.; Pearson, H.C.
Assessing the Behavioural Responses of Small Cetaceans to Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles. *Remote Sens.* *2021*, *13*, 156.
https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13010156

Abstract:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have recently emerged as a
relatively affordable and accessible method for studying wildlife. Vertical
Take-off and Landing (VTOL) UAVs are appropriate for morphometric,
behavioural, abundance and demographic studies of marine mammals, providing
a stable, nonintrusive and highly manoeuvrable platform. Previous studies
using VTOL UAVs have been conducted on various marine mammal species, but
specific studies regarding behavioural responses to these devices are
limited and scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate the immediate
behavioural responses of common (Delphinus delphis) and bottlenose (Tursiops
truncatus) dolphins to a VTOL UAV flown at different altitudes. A
multirotor (quadcopter) UAV with an attached GoPro camera was used. Once a
dolphin group was located, the UAV was flown at a starting height of 50 m
directly above the group, subsequently descending 5 m every 30 s until
reaching 5 m. We assessed three behavioural responses to a VTOL UAV at
different heights: (i) direction changes, (ii) swimming speed and (iii)
diving. Responses by D. delphis (n = 15) and T. truncatus (n = 10) groups
were analysed separately. There were no significant responses of T.
truncatus to any of the studied variables. For D. delphis, however, there
were statistically significant changes in direction when the UAV was flown
at a height of 5 m. Our results indicate that UAVs do not induce immediate
behavioural responses in common or bottlenose dolphins when flown at
heights > 5 m, demonstrating that the use of VTOL UAVs to study dolphins
has minimal impact on the animals. However, we advise the use of the
precautionary principle when interpreting these results as characteristics
of this study site (e.g., high whale-watching activity) may have habituated
dolphins to anthropogenic disturbance.


The full paper is available via open access:
https://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/13/1/156/htm
Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Best regards,
Joana Castro


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