We recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone to take images of our local environment. This is a small folding drone that has a 20 megapixel 1” sensor camera with a 28mm lens. It is remarkably capable and has a flight time of about 30 minutes on a full charge. I initially wondered whether it would be useful in our work and after 6 months of regular flying in our local Whitsunday region I’ve decided that it is actually quite a useful tool for marine surveys. Looking at aerial views of reefs gives a unique overview that can help with site selection for surveys. The drone can also be used to fly transects searching for megafauna such as manta rays, dolphins, dugongs and turtles. The long flight time means I can fly two 2000 x 50m transects on a charge, recording a video from a height of 50m that can be searched for target species. With three batteries I was able to record six 2 kilometre long megafauna transects in just a few hours. I’ve seen lots of turtles and one dugong so far! The drone can also be used to take aerials of the reef flat to count numbers of holothurians or to measure the extent of corals such as Porites micro-atolls.
So I’d have to conclude that this drone can be a useful tool for marine biological surveys as well as providing lots of fun!