Wildlife research by air
FINDING—AND TRACKING—POLAR BEARS is not an easy task. Researchers battle frigid temperatures, heavy winds, and sea ice that’s melting earlier than in past decades. The polar bears themselves have a home range of a few hundred miles, and with their white coats, it can be a challenge to see them against ice and snow. Traditional methods of finding and tracking them with helicopters are invasive and costly. Paired with the treacherous Arctic conditions, including freezing temperatures and heavy winds, exploration from a boat in these remote areas is challenging even for the most experienced researchers. Deploying drones is an alternative that provides greater access to researchers and wildlife experts.
Wildlife photographer and conservationist Ole Jørgen Liodden has used the Intel Falcon 8+ system to help him track polar-bear communities in the Arctic and capture information on their behavior patterns, which will provide wildlife and environmental researchers with accurate, reliable data captured in a safe and efficient way. Tracking the polar bears’ behavior, breeding, feeding, and migration habits helps scientists understand not only the effects of climate change on the Arctic but also the health of the entire planet.
A recent expedition found that polar bears did not show any signs of distress or changes in behavior when the Falcon 8+ was flown approximately 50 to 100 yards from the animals. The thermal-camera payload made it easy to spot the bears against the colder background. This progress in studying polar bears creates new research opportunities, powering science exploration in ways never thought possible.
“Polar bears are a symbol of the Arctic,” says Liodden. “They are strong, intelligent animals. If they become extinct, there will be challenges with our entire ecosystem. Drone technology can hopefully help us get ahead of these challenges to better understand our world and preserve the Earth’s environment.”
Wildlife photographer Ole Jørgen Liodden explores the behavior patterns of polar bears in the Arctic.
Because of their coloring, polar bears can be difficult to see in the snow without thermal imaging.
The Norwegian vessel that carried the crew to the 80th Parallel is dwarfed by the Arctic expanse.