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NASA and NOAA Research Collaboration to Conduct Aerial Survey of Marine Mammals is Featured on Fox 5 San Diego
(May 3, 2024)
Over the past few decades, the populations of Stellar Sea Lions and Harbor Seals in and around the Aleutian Islands have been experiencing a steady decline, particularly in the western Aleutians. To better understand this shift in population, and potential causes, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML) conducts annual aerial surveys to assess the population and distribution of these endangered animals. As expected, these aerial surveys, conducted in traditional manned Twin Otter aircraft, pose multiple challenges to NOAA researchers due to the remote, rugged terrain, as well as the extreme, unpredictable weather. In an effort to reduce risks to NOAA personnel and equipment, the MML wanted to evaluate the possibility of unmanned aerial surveys. Hoping to leverage NASA's expertise in unmanned aircraft systems, a new collaboration with NASA was formed. Following several rounds of feasibility assessments, equipment testing, vehicle preparation and mission planning, NASA and NOAA were able to successfully integrate NOAA’'s survey equipment into NASA’s SIERRA-B uncrewed aerial vehicle.

The culmination of this extensive project arrived in September of 2023, as NASA and NOAA researchers gathered at Shemya Island, at the western tip of the Aleutian Islands chain. With NOAA survey payloads on board the NASA SIERRA-B aircraft, ground flight operators and controllers were able to operate the vehicle beyond visual line of sight and were able to successfully perform the data collection missions for NOAA. Looking forward, NOAA hopes to continue working with NASA to develop this unmanned aerial survey capability. Using the knowledge and expertise gained from this collaboration, NOAA is ultimately hoping to develop their own unmanned research platform to conduct future animal surveys.

To view the full Fox 5 San Diego new feature, please visit - https://fox5sandiego.com/video/nasa-noaa-are-collaborating-on-marine-mammal-tracking/9634826/.
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Curator: Phil So
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Last Updated: March 18, 2024