I found this amazing video online and wanted to share it. This was taken during a Whale Watch tour that was going from Dana Point, Orange County, California to Catalina and is of a Super Pod of Gray Whales and other amazing sea life. It was taken by Captain Todd Mansur and Captain Frank Brennan with what appears to be a Go Pro attached to a DJI Phantom (I’m not positive on this, but am assuming based on the DJI hashtag). I think it is great videography and also a wonderful way to raise awareness about these endangered, majestic animals!
This is only one of many videos they have taken from a drone during whale watch tours. Capt Brennan has significant experience with whales and practiced with the COPTERWHALECAM for weeks before using it over sea life. He has done this responsibly based on his wealth of knowledge and experience. Very few of us share his level of experience in both whales and UAS. However, I caution the general public against doing this on their own. NOAA guidelines regarding whales address boats (remain 100 yards from whales), and manned aircraft (stay at least 1000 ft above cetaceans), but they do not address drones. However, many whales are endangered, and interfering with them can lead to criminal penalties. Only one experienced in both whales and UAS has the experience to prevent such an incident, so I would leave this to professionals like Capt Brennan.
Interestingly, Captain Mansur was in the news on a semi-related topic. Even the Navy follows the Endangered Species Act and avoids whale strikes, which can be lethal to the whale. Last year he notified the USS CORONADO that it was headed directly toward a pod of Gray whales. The warship came to a stop and did not hit the whales.
If you want more information about the Endangered Species Act, you can read about it here. Even if you don’t care about losing your drone to King Neptune, remember that it falling on a whale is considered a whale strike and subjects the user to severe civil and criminal penalties.
In the meantime, enjoy these amazing videos, and check out Dana Wharf Whale Watching tours.