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Drone

The Daily Camera CU News reports that student researchers at the University of Colorado are planning to add the study of sperm whale communication patterns to the fast-growing list of tasks that can be aided by drone technology. And they — the students, not the whales — could use the public’s help.

CU’s 12-member Search and Help Aquatic Mammals UAS aerospace engineering student team — the acronym, appropriately, is SHAMU — is trying to raise funds for a project aimed at facilitating scientific research on sperm whale communication patterns.

Partnering with the Cetacean Echolocation Translation Initiative, SHAMU’s goal is to design, build and operate an unmanned aerial system, or drone, that would be used to find pods of whales in the open ocean.

“The most exciting thing to me is, it’s a real application of what I have been learning over the last four years,” said project manager Severyn Polakiewicz.

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“And it’s applied to something that is beyond commercial or defense. It’s for the conservation of life on Earth. It improves our environment and improves humanity and also reveals the intelligence of massive mammals. And I think we should be understanding that intelligence on a better level because we do have the capability for it.”

The winged drone, with a wingspan of 3 meters and weighing 18 pounds, may have its inaugural launch this summer from a scientific research ship off the coast of Sri Lanka. It will be capable of spotting surfacing whales up to 7.45 miles from either side of the ship and then return to land on the vessel.

While in the air, the drone can send one photo back to the research ship per minute.

A smaller boat could then be dispatched in the right direction to get closer to the whales. Continue reading about this project.