TILLAMOOK – High winds, rocky terrain, salt water and seabirds can make flying on the Oregon Coast challenging, even dangerous under the best of circumstances. For a team of researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University these conditions represent the ideal laboratory for testing unmanned or “drone” aircraft.
Drone aircraft being developed at Embry-Riddle will be deployed from Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area July 26-27 in an attempt to photograph double-crested cormorants nesting on Haystock Rock near Pacific City.
Double-crested cormorants are large seabirds that inhabit Oregon’s estuaries during the spring and summer. Cormorants, which can eat up to two pounds of fish per day, have been identified by sportsmen’s groups and others as a potential threat to the outbound migration of salmon and steelhead. ODFW is monitoring the cormorants at Haystack Rock as part of a broader population study to find out what impact the birds may have on migratory fish. Cormorants are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so extra care must be used to ensure the birds are not unduly disturbed.