HWDT become Commercial Drone Operators

HWDT staff and the NATS team aboard  Silurian

HWDT staff and the NATS team aboard Silurian

Over the past couple of months, we have been working with NATS to ensure the safe and successful use of drones while undertaking efforts to conserve whales, dolphins and porpoises in Hebridean waters.  

Alison Lomax, our Director, said: “We are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to become commercial drone operators, gaining an understanding of the theory as well as the technical. The drone we now have will help us to champion the area for responsible whale and dolphin watching, encouraging more people to visit the Hebrides and enjoy the marine wildlife found here. The ability to operate a drone safely and legally around protected wildlife is so important to our mission and we are delighted to be leading by example in this respect thanks to NATS and Maplin.”

Huge Thanks!

NATS very generously gifted places on their commercial drone operating course; allowing staff members to obtain a licence – including Pippa Garrard, the first female in Scotland to complete the course!  Caren, Will and Les (some of the NATS team) also visited HWDT HQ in Tobermory to provide some hands-on training and advice for operating the drone from aboard our research vessel, Silurian.

William Vine-Brown, Drone Training Specialist, said “The work of the Trust is a great example of the positive impact drones can have. It’s extremely encouraging to see the proactive approach of the Trust in adopting such new technology and it’s important for us to know that we have given them proper training in how to use the drone safely and responsibly within the relevant legislation and licensing laws. “

During the visit, the NATS team surprised us by presenting a drone that was kindly donated by Maplin. 

A huge thanks to both NATS and Maplin for their support in helping us begin our journey in utilising drones to progress our conservation efforts.   

Les, from NATS, shows us how it's done

Les, from NATS, shows us how it's done

Looking Ahead

The support from NATS and Maplin has enabled us to begin our journey in using drone technology to help further our conservation efforts. Our new Whale Trail Project - which looks to establish a network of sites across the Hebrides where people can enjoy whale watching from land - will benefit from the new technology .  The drone could be used to scope out sites and produce fantastic resources to market the ‘Whale Trail’; encouraging more sustainable wildlife tourism in the area, while providing information about how to get involved with marine conservation.     

The Trust may well be the first marine research organisation to use drones in the UK to aid the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans).  As a marine conservation NGO we are acutely aware of the potential disturbance human activity can have on marine life and we pride ourselves in deploying benign research techniques to study the animals.  Therefore, we plan to work with the relevant organisations to outline best practice and lay down some guidelines before we utilise the drone to film cetaceans.