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Alaska’s Unmanned Aircraft Research

— FrontierScientists investigates work with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, flying remote-controlled technological tools. UAVs allow for low-altitude remote sensing, letting Arctic researchers aid in emergency response plans, engage in climate change studies, survey wild places without disturbing wildlife, and access dangerous areas like active wildfires or volcanoes.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Researchers test the viability of using unmanned aircraft to help in the Steller sea lion research conducted by the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) along the Aleutian Islands. The videos explain some of the practicalities of using unmanned aircraft for this purpose.

The western population of Steller’s sea lion (those breeding on rookeries located west of 144W, or from Prince William Sound west in Alaska and in Russia) is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Steller’s sea lion numbers continue to decline in the Aleutian Islands west of about 177W, and the National Marine Fisheries Service recently imposed new fishery regulations to try to stem the decline and promote recovery. These regulations are controversial because in one area (western Aleutians from 170-177E) they resulted in the closing of the Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fisheries. As a consequence, NMFS has sharpened it research focus on the Aleutian Islands to try to understand the continued decline of sea lions in this area. Aboard The Norseman, the team took a three-week research March 2012 Cruise from Attu to Dutch Harbor through all kinds of weather, snow, sun, rain, and 10 foot seas, including a couple of hurricanes.

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