Wild orcas are getting a lot more exposure these days, thanks to the use of drone technology that captured some pretty spectacular footage of them.
One such video was taken by researchers at the Vancouver Aquarium and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as part of a series of 60 missions that took over 30,000 photos of a threatened northern resident orca population off Vancouver, Canada.
See the footage here.
The basketball-sized drone, called a hexacopter, flew about 100 feet above the animals to take photos. While it's not scientifically understood how whales respond to drone noises, researchers reported no behavioral reaction from the whales at all.
Dr. Iain Kerr of Ocean Alliance, who is currently conducting experiments to determine just what effect drones have on whales, theorizes that drones could open up a whole new world of non-invasive techniques for data sampling.
"The potential here for drones is enormous," he told The Dodo earlier this month. "If you're above the animal, you can take 3-D pictures, you can look for health or identification marks. And when you're collecting one piece of data, you might get a dozen others - even see something we've never seen before. That's the icing on the cake."
For this expedition, researchers certainly took advantage of these capabilities. They found previously undetected pregnancies and health issues, as well as one missing whale.
At the same time, activists have used images from a bird's-eye-view to capture the plight of a different set of orcas - those living in captivity at marine parks like SeaWorld. Satellite images have shown what life's really like for these animals: