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The Scale of a Whale

You can’t measure the length of a humpback whale with a tape measure. So biologists at the Duke Marine Lab have found a way to estimate whale size from above, using cameras mounted on flying drones. To perfect this technique, graduate student Elizabeth Mason took aerial images of this life-sized inflatable whale laid out across the football field at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC. The balloon beauty, on loan from UNCW MarineQuest, provides a reference for improving the accuracy of aerial measurements, and ultimately contributes to the lab’s efforts to monitor the health of North Atlantic whale populations.