FLIR-Equipped, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Tracks Sharks in Nantucket

Manassas, Va.-based Aurora Flight Sciences recently partnered with OCEARCH, a marine conservation organization, to provide aerial support locating and tracking great white sharks off the coast of Nantucket, Mass.

The optionally piloted aircraft, a Centaur DA-42, flew above the expedition area in a predetermined flight pattern to help scientists on board the OCEARCH ship target, identify and track the location of the sharks in real time.

Remotely piloted by an air vehicle operator on board OCEARCH’s vessel, Centaur scanned the mission area with a FLIR 230 infrared sensor to pick up heat signatures and movements in the waters below.

The live imagery from the sensor displayed on Centaur’s shipboard ground control station allowed OCEARCH to enhance the mission by widening their search capabilities, says Aurora.

With a total of five great whites tagged, the three-week expedition was deemed a success for the organization’s ongoing scientific research of the North Atlantic White Shark.

“The expedition allowed us to demonstrate the technological and operational capabilities of Centaur and, more importantly, the value and benefits of utilizing optionally piloted aircraft for a variety of missions – which now includes maritime,” comments John Langford, chairman and CEO of Aurora.

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