This is the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to track and photograph killer whales. The photographs allow scientist monitor killer whale health and reproduction.   The incredible detail in the photographs allow researches to see if the whales are pregnant, malnourished, in general get a good idea of how healthy these animals are.

Because of their sensitivity these animals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and researches operating these drones need special permits to do so.

Orca family traveling together.  The smaller ones are young calves.  

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-1

These are two northern resident Orcas.  The photo was taking from a height of 100 feet. 

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-2

Per an observation directly from NOAA:  “The female at top appears skinny and in poor condition. The female in the middle appears healthy and well-nourished. The whale at bottom is pregnant, her body bulging aft of the rib cage.”

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-3

A large group of Orcas, possibly composed of several families. 

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-4

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-5

Orcas exhibiting their playful nature.  

first-drone-photos-of-killer-whales-6