Three Orcas breach the water's surface in Johnstone Strait

VIDEO: Drone footage captures bird’s eye view of B.C. orcas

The Vancouver Aquarium captured over 30,000 photos of killer whales off northern Vancouver Island's coast, in Johnstone Strait, in August.

The video above captures a pod of orcas, filmed by the Vancouver Aquarium in Johnstone Strait – a piece of B.C. water between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The Aquarium says it filmed the pod in August using a drone camera aboard a hexacopter, and that this footage is the first time a drone has been used to monitor whales for scientific purposes (VanCity Buzz).

The Aquarium says the footage is a new form of research that allows scientists to capture a different angle of the whales, and to discover new information about their swimming patterns, behaviours, and movements.

“For me, this is an entirely new perspective and it’s very exciting. It’s just like opening my eyes to a different view of the whales,” said the Aquarium’s Lance Barrett-Lennard. “We’ve always felt studying killer whales or any marine mammal is challenging. It’s like studying a board that disappears every time it flies off the nest, right? Every time they go under water we, ‘What happens?’ We don’t know.

“Seeing them from above, we see them going down. We see them coming up. We see a lot more of their behaviour than we do when we’re watching them horizontally from a boat.”

Barrett-Lennard said the drone was positioned about 100 feet above the whales. Used in 60 missions off northern Vancouver Island in August, the hexacopter was able to reportedly take 30,000 photos of the whales.

“We were very encouraged,” he said. “We could fly it over the whales (with) no discernable reaction, whatsoever.”

Video/Files: The Canadian Press

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