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Mériscope gets airborne – with a remotely operated multicopter video camera

22 Sept. 2015 - It's the kind of stuff you are dreaming about as a marine biologist - a high-end camera drone. Recently, a generous sponsor provided the Mériscope with a Phantom Pro drone, equipped with a HD camera and a remote monitoring and controlling panel. The drone opens a whole range of exciting possibilities, from aerial imaging of coastal areas and research operations to overhead videography of cetaceans and other marine wildlife.

I can remember a time when marine biologists launched a helium weather balloon from a small inflatable boat in the St. Lawrence in an attempt to get aerial footage of whales feeding at the surface. Needless to say that with a two meter balloon and without a remote operating system, most attempts ran out of helium before some useful footage was acquired.

With the Phantom Pro drone, we are flying into the modern world of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photography. Basically, it is a very compact, remotely operated multicopter equipped with a swivel-mounted camera that shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second and captures 12 megapixel photos. The Phantom Pro 3 comes with an integrated 3-axis stabilization gimbal for the camera, real-time monitoring and a dedicated remote controller.

For the coming season, we are intending to launch and land the drone from land and from boats. A first challenge will be the production of a short documentary about our project in Longue-Rive where we are developping a permanent research station, integrating aerial footage of the station and the coast, where the future facilities are being built, as well as some operations at sea.

UAVs are becoming increasingly popular among marine biologists and documentary film makers, however, there are many technical questions and legal restrictions to consider before launching your drone camera. A workshop entitled "Unmanned Aerial Systems: Powerful and Cost-Effective Tools for Marine Science and Conservation" will be held on December 13, 2015, at the San Francisco Hilton, just prior the upcoming 21st SMM Biennial Conference.

We would like to thank our sponsor for this generous donation. This piece of equipment will make a big difference in many of our future projects. I think we are just beginning to realize the vast spectrum of potential applications that will open up once we get airborne.

Photos: Gessica Gambaro




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