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PMNM Supports Ikhana Unmanned Aircraft System Operations

OAR Hot Item | August 4, 2014

On July 17 and 19, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) supported the second of two Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations in the Monument this summer. For two days, researchers with NOAA’s OAR-UAS, Marine Debris Program and Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Programs, along with USFWS, USCG and the US Navy participated in the flight of NASA’s Ikhana Predator MQ-9 UAS in the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (MHI & NWHI). The objectives of the flights were to survey birds and monk seals, search for marine debris, and monitor for vessels operating in the Monument. The Ikhana flight covered Ni‘ihau and Lehua islands in the MHI and Nihoa and Mokumanamana in the Monument. The Ikhana continued west of Mokumanamana almost to French Frigate Shoals, however satellite coverage issues made it too risky to continue further west. The aircraft's advanced radar, electro-optical, and infrared sensors captured exceptional imagery; monk seals were observed nursing on the shoreline at Mokumanamana, marine debris was documented at all islands, and birds and monk seals were imaged and documented at various islands. No vessels were observed within Monument waters. More than 15 hours of video is currently being processed, which will then be analyzed by various scientists and managers, including by the Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group to ensure no inappropriate publication / use of cultural images. These missions confirmed that a long-range UAS can gather significant data in the NWHI, and is also an example of successful coordination of multiple agencies on a complex mission. For more information, contact Todd.Jacobs@noaa.gov or David.Graham@noaa.gov.

Significance: Working with multiple agencies utilizing new technology to supplement efforts in managing of the Monument.

Contact information
Name: Todd Jacobs
Todd.Jacobs@noaa.gov