A three-week expedition in search of right whales in the Auckland Islands has yielded results beyond scientists' expectations.
University of Otago's RV Polaries II arrived back to Dunedin last week with more than 100 different individual images of right whales in an effort to document the status of the whales breeding in Port Ross, which is located more than 500 kilometres south of New Zealand.
Expedition leader Professor Steve Dawson says the drone provided the expedition with a more accurate readings of the whales.
Photo by S. Dawson, taken under permit from Department of Conservation
"We fitted our drone with a tiny laser rangefinder to measure altitude with a high degree of precision. Because of this we can measure the size and shape of right whales photographed from above," he says
"In three weeks on site, we were able to fly our drone a total of 136 times on 12 days - far more than we expected."
Funded by the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) the expedition was hailed a success by NZARI Director, Professor Gary Wilson.
"This expedition is a great example of the kind of research NZARI supports using new technology to learn more about how our southern ecosystems function and how we might use that to understand future changes." he said.