Wednesday, 15 Dec, 2010 Environment
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Unmanned Aircrafts Used to Identify Arctic Seals

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According to researchers, greenhouse gas emissions produced by factories worldwide cause a fast warming of the Arctic, negatively influencing the terrestrial mammals.

Scientists are more interested in four species of Arctic seals: the bearded, ringed, spotted, and ribbon seals. These four species need ice for breeding, resting and protecting against predators.

Having the goal of monitoring the Arctic and identifying seals and estimate their population, researchers decided to use an unmanned aircraft.

Dubbed "Scan Eagle," the drone was launched in 2009 from the NOAA vessel McArthur II over the Bering Sea west of Alaska. The owner and operator of the aircraft is the University of Alaska.

In order to perform automatic identification of the seals on the 27,000 images taken by the Scan Eagle, scientists used image recognition software developed by Boulder Labs Inc. in Boulder, Colo.

The flights of the unmanned aircraft lasted from 2 to 8 hours. The drone flew at altitudes ranging from 300 to 1,000 feet, reports Futurity.

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