Drone News Roundup: Australia Makes Huge Investment in Drones for the Antarctic, Researchers Study Dolphins by Drone, and More!

BY Zacc Dukowitz
10 March 2022

This week we’re covering Australia’s huge investment in drones and other technology to preserve its interests in Antarctica.

We’re also covering researchers in the U.K. using drones to determine whether dolphins are pregnant without disturbing them, Iris Automation’s waiver to fly drones BVLOS autonomously for Search and Rescue missions, and news that the FAA’s administrator Steve Dickson will be leaving his post at the end of this month.

Now on to the links!

Australia to Invest Over $60 Million in Drones and Robotics for Surveillance in Antarctica

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Image source

Australia claims almost half of Antarctica, and it has been growing concerned lately about China’s potential incursions on its land. To protect its territory, and to learn more about remote areas in the Antarctic, the Australian government recently announced an investment of $800 million to “strengthen our leadership in Antarctica.” Over $60 million of that money is earmarked for drone fleets and other autonomous vehicles, which will be used to map inaccessible and fragile areas of the East Antarctic.

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Researchers Find New Ways to Study Dolphins by Drone

Estimating pregnancy rates of dolphins

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. have found a way to determine whether bottlenose dolphins are pregnant using drone imagery. The approach is pretty straightforward, and involves measuring the width of a dolphin’s body using aerial photos. Information about pregnancy can help researchers better understand the health of individual dolphins, as well as track the impact that environmental factors might be having on the dolphin population as a whole in a given area.

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Iris Automation Gets Permission to Fly Drones BVLOS Autonomously for River Rescues

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Credit: Iris Automation

Iris Automation has received permission from the FAA to fly drones autonomously Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). The waiver was secured through the company’s involvement in the FAA’s BEYOND program, which is focused primarily on testing BVLOS drone operations. Iris Automation obtained the waiver in partnership with the City of Reno and the Reno Fire Department (RFD), who plan to use it for getting key aerial data during dangerous water rescues.

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FAA Administrator Steve Dickson Will Step Down at the End of This Month

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Image source

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has announced that he’s stepping down at the end of this month. He took the position in July of 2019 and was supposed to hold it for five years. However, citing the desire to be home with his family, Dickson has decided to leave the position early. Prior to joining the FAA Dickson had worked in aviation for over 43 years, with almost 30 years spent in leadership at Delta Air Lines.

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