Fi­nal Ap­proach

Wildlife re­search by air

Model Airplane News - - CONTENTS - By the Model Air­plane News crew

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.

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