UAF drone guru turns flying cameras on sea lions

April 6, 2012 

In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 photo, Greg Walker of UAF prepares an Aeryon Scout unmanned aerial vehicle at the Nome causeway.

CHARLY HENGEN / US COAST GUARD

Greg Walker of the University of Alaska Fairbanks seems to be everywhere these days. Manager of the unmanned flight program at the UAF Geophysical Institute, he has been demonstrating his tiny, camera-equipped drone aircraft in a variety of Alaska environments, including doing ice surveys off Nome in subzero cold for the recent emergency fuel delivery and helping oil companies survey pipes at Prudhoe Bay. Most recently, he was in the western Aleutian Islands helping scientists count Steller sea lions, reports The Dutch Harbor Fisherman.

Just off the boat in Unalaska last week, Walker said the two drones, a tiny helicopter and a miniature airplane, performed remarkably well at the task of photographing sea lions. ...

Walker said 29 drone flights were flown on the recent trip, at 21 locations, 12 with the little four-bladed helicopter that folds into a small suitcase, and at nine sites with the airplane with a 10-foot wingspan. The drones' battery power lasts for two hours aloft for the plane, while the helicopter can fly for 25 minutes. The drones are not only far cheaper, they are much safer than traditional aircraft in the absence of human pilots, he said.

Read more at The Fisherman. Ned Rozell of the UAF Geophysical Institute and the UAF student newspaper have also written about Walker's drone program.

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