[MARMAM] New publication: How loud are drones underwater?

Amelie Laute amelie.etual at gmail.com
Wed Jul 12 09:08:42 PDT 2023

Dear MARMAMers,

this might be interesting to all of you that use drones as part of your

I'm pleased to announce on behalf of my co-authors a new publication on the
sound of drones underwater, published in JASA. We flew three different DJI
drones (Inspire, Phantom, Mavic) at different heights and horizontal
distances over a hydrophone and measured their sound underwater. The drones
all sound very different and depending on your species of interest you
should choose your drone appropriately. Depending on the animal and on the
distance, the drones may well be audible underwater! Also, flying higher
above the animal reduces the sound but flying away horizontally reduces it
much much more. So, whenever possible, stay behind or next to the animal to
reduce potential impacts.

If you're interested in the paper, check out the story behind it and the
lay summary on our blog: https://whalewise.org/blog-2/

Or check out the article online: https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0019805

Or ask Amelie for a copy (amelie-laute at gmx.de)

Laute A, Glarou M, Dodds F, Røsand SCG, Grove TJ, Stoller A, Rasmussen MH,
Smith A, Loisa O and Fournet MEH (2023). Underwater sound of three
unoccupied aerial vehicles at varying altitudes and horizontal distances. *JASA
(Journal of the Acoustical Society of America)*, 153:3419.

ABSTRACT: Unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” are increasingly
used as a tool for cetacean research, but knowledge about how these tools
contribute to underwater sound is lacking. In this study, underwater sound
levels of three commonly used UAV models (Mavic Pro Platinum, Phantom 4 Pro
v2.0, Inspire 1 Pro) were recorded. For each model, three replicate flights
were conducted at 36 positions at standardized horizontal (0–30 m) and
vertical (2–40 m) distances from a hydrophone (1m depth). Median broadband
received levels of the Inspire were highest at 96.5 dBrms 141–17 783 Hz re
1 lPa2, followed by the Phantom (92.4 dBrms 141–17 783 Hz re 1 lPa2) and
Mavic, which was quietest (85.9 dBrms 141–17 783 Hz re 1 lPa2). Median
ambient sound levels in the absence of an UAV were 82.7 dBrms 141–17 783 Hz
re 1 lPa2. Significant increases in ambient sound levels associated with
UAV flights occurred at higher altitudes than previously reported, and
received levels decreased more with increasing horizontal distance of the
UAV than with altitude. To minimize potential noise impacts on sensitive
marine animal subjects, we recommend increasing horizontal distance to the
animal, rather than altitude, and choosing the quietest UAV feasible.


Amelie Laute
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