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Atlantic bluefin tuna measured with an APH-22 hexacopter drone

Atlantic bluefin tuna measured with an APH-22 hexacopter drone

In the Gulf of Maine, researchers use an APH-22 hexacopter drone to collect data and measure juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna. The purpose of this pilot study was to see if a drone could keep up with the fast-moving tuna and take high-resolution photos that would capture individual fish and schools.

APH-22 hexacopter drone used to measure Atlantic bluefin tuna

The high-resolution photos taken with the APH-22 hexacopter drone allowed researchers to measure the elusive tuna with an accuracy of less than 1 cm. The pilot study was conducted northeast of Cape Cod in the southern parts of the Gulf of Maine which are the foraging grounds of the Atlantic bluefin tuna.

“Multi-rotor unmanned aerial systems won’t replace shipboard surveys or the reliance on manned aircraft to cover a large area,” said Mike Jech, an acoustics researcher at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and lead author of the study, according to Phys.org. “They have a limited flight range due to battery power and can only collect data in bursts. Despite some limitations, they will be invaluable for collecting remote high-resolution images that can provide data at the accuracy and precision needed by managers for growth and ecosystem models of Atlantic bluefin tuna.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna measured with an APH-22 hexacopter drone

The APH-22 helicopter. Photo credit: ResearchGate, Holly Fearnbach

The Atlantic bluefin tuna has proven to be a fish that is hard to study because it swims incredibly fast and also at times at depths of hundreds of feet below the surface. A fast-flying drone with a high-resolution camera allows the researchers to take precision measurements of the fish that are in constant motion.

“The platform [APH-22 hexacopter drone] is ideal for accurately measuring fish length, width, and the distance between individuals in a school when you apply calibration settings and performance measures,” Jech said. “We were able to locate the hexacopter in three-dimensional space and monitor its orientation to obtain images with a resolution that allowed us to make measurements of individual fish.”

The results of the study that uses the APH-22 hexacopter drone have been published in the March 2020 edition of the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems.

Atlantic bluefin tuna measured with an APH-22 hexacopter drone

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Photo: Phys.org

Haye Kesteloo

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