Drone records rare whale footage in the Hauraki Gulf

10 Jun, 2016

Unique footage of a Bryde’s Whale has been released by Auckland University of Technology. The footage shows an adult whale feeding, briefly joined by a young calf, and was filmed from a drone off the coast of Auckland. It is thought to be the first time the feeding behaviour of a Bryde’s Whale has been recorded by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

The footage was captured by AUT post-graduate students, Ticiana Fetterman and Lorenzo Fiori, while on the water conducting their respective Masters and PhD research. They were stunned to glimpse the whales, and to share the rarely seen moment with their research supervisor Dr Barbara Bollard Breen.

“Bryde’s Whales are critically threatened in New Zealand, so it’s thrilling to see them in the wild and to be able to record them feeding from above is very special,” says the Senior Lecturer in Geospatial Science.

“Using a UAV allowed Ticiana and Lorenzo to film without disturbing the surrounding wildlife – revealing footage of the whales feeding that we wouldn’t have been able to see from a boat-based survey.”

The team was using a custom-built multirotor UAV, one of a number of drones used by AUT’s Institute for Applied Ecology in their conservation and ecology research.

It flew at a distance of at least 40 meters from the whales, while recording clear, detailed footage. The adult whale is estimated to be approximately 12 metres long, 12 tonnes in weight and 10 years old.

The footage can be seen on YouTubeInstagram and Facebook, where it has attracted thousands of views overnight.

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