How can you tell if a dolphin is pregnant? With a drone, of course!

Yes, it appears that scientists have discovered yet another application for drones. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen found that drones can successfully be used to determine whether or not dolphins are pregnant.

The researchers discovered that assessing the breadth of a dolphin’s body revealed in aerial pictures could identify pregnant females.

Previously, only successful deliveries were acknowledged when dolphins were observed with a calf. The study was conducted by researchers at the university’s Cromarty Lighthouse Field Station.

The team of researchers has been tracking the bottlenose dolphin population that inhabits the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation for more than 30 years.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Duke University’s Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory (MaRRS) in the and has been called the first to non-invasively detect if protected female bottlenose dolphins are pregnant.

The researchers compared the aerial images from drones with data from long-term records, such as whether the females had given birth and when.

Drones provide wealth of new data on dolphin population

“We only knew about successful pregnancies, and didn’t know how many pregnancies failed or how many calves died before we saw them,” Dr. Barbara Cheney from the University of Aberdeen said.

“The main aim of the study was to explore whether we could remotely determine pregnancy status from aerial photographs taken using an unoccupied aerial system or drone.

“Similar studies have been carried out for larger whales but as far as we know this is the first time it has been done for small cetaceans.”

Researchers hope to collect data on failed pregnancies, which might provide insight into a daolphin’s health and assist in the identification of causes of population decline, such as food scarcity.

“By using aerial photos this will allow us to routinely monitor changes in reproductive success in this protected bottlenose dolphin population, supporting conservation, Dr Cheney said to BBC News.

“Data on failed pregnancies could provide information on how healthy a particular dolphin is as well as helping to identify the causes of changes in the population.”

“Gathering Information is also particularly challenging in cetaceans that are highly mobile and spend much of their time underwater. This study will provide us with a wealth of new data to further improve our knowledge and understanding of reproductive success in bottlenose dolphins.”

How Can You Tell If A Dolphin Is Pregnant? With A Drone, Obviously!

The research has been published in Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.

you can read more stories about drones being used for good here, on DroneXL.

How Can You Tell If A Dolphin Is Pregnant? With A Drone, Of Course! 1

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass tests and achieve your dreams.

FTC: uses affiliate links that generate income.* We do not sell, share, rent out or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.

Stay in touch!

If you’d like to stay up to date with all the latest drone news, scoops, rumors, and reviews follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or… Subscribe to our email.*

Default image
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 1727