New techniques for counting Steller sea lions using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were tested. These techniques were proven to be useful. The UAS and imaging technologies have several characteristics that may make them superior to previously used airborne survey methods. Additionally, it may be possible to conduct survey operations by UAS more frequently, more safely, at a lesser cost, and in a wider range of weather conditions than comparable surveys employing manned aircraft.
Utilizing small UAS for aerial survey operations could increase the rate of Steller sea lion monitoring, and would thus lead to a better understanding of the animal population’s vital rates and dynamics.