ODFW to Launch Unmanned Drone on Oregon Coast

Jul 24, 2012

Wildlife officials plan to launch an unmanned aircraft on the Oregon coast. They hope the drone will allow them to monitor seabird populations on hard-to-reach rocky islands that serve as nesting grounds. KLCC’s Jes Burns reports.

Civil libertarians have bashed military and local law enforcement use of unmanned drones in the US and abroad, but Oregon wildlife managers hope to use the developing technology to monitor bird and animal populations in remote parts of the state. The first trial begins Thursday Haystack Rock near Pacific City. There scientists will attempt to launch the drone and photograph a colony of cormorants, birds which are accused of eating fledging salmon in large quantities.

Lindsay Adrean is with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. She says biologists are excited about the technology.

Adrean: “Things like waterfowl surveys, deer and elk surveys… There’s a lot that we do right now using regular aircraft, but it’s getting more and more expensive and it’s pretty dangerous too. So this will be a really helpful technology.”

The drone being used to observe seabirds weighs about 6 pounds and has a wingspan of about 4.5 feet. Its flight path will be computer-programmed, but a radio-control pilot will be standing by to take over in case anything goes wrong.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio