In a move to support marine conservation and research with drone technology the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has teamed up with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT).
The Scottish trust is among the first marine research organisations in the UK to use drones to aid the conservation of marine mammals.
As a provider of UK drone training courses for commercial drone pilots, NATS offered the charity complimentary places on a course so the drone pilots could be instructed to obtain the knowledge and confidence necessary to operate a drone safely and proficiently.
The NATS course outlined the knowledge and operating procedures needed to obtain CAA permission to operate the drone.
Alison Lomax, HWDT Director, said: “The drone we now have will help us to champion the area for responsible whale and dolphin watching, encouraging more people to visit the Hebrides and enjoy the marine wildlife found here. The ability to operate a drone safely and legally around protected wildlife is so important to our mission and we are delighted to be leading by example in this respect.”
The HDWT recently launched a new sightings app called ‘Whale Track’ for people to report their sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises from across the West Coast of Scotland. Anyone can download the app for free from the App Store and GooglePlay.
Electronics retailer Maplin also contributed a free drone for the charity to use, along with maintenance for the first year.
Andrew Uden, Maplin technical director, said: “We pride ourselves on being the UK’s responsible drone retailer and have an excellent relationship with NATS; we were therefore delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile initiative. Using our technical expertise, we were able to provide the perfect drone matching HWDT’s needs enabling them to simply and effectively monitor whales, dolphins and porpoises”