I filmed this using a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with a gimbal called the Zenmuse. This little camera drone is very tiny and quiet and the whales obviously did not even notice or care it was there. Using an aerial photography platform like the Phantom is a great way to raise awareness about whales and encourage people to operate motor vehicles safely in the warm waters around Maui because there are baby whales out there frolicking with their mothers!
I have become aware of the MMPA recently because of this video and I want to stress my intentions were to observe with zero impact. I think the big question is if the little Phantom 2 is considered an aircraft or not. We certainly kept the boat far away from the whales! The whole point was to not disturb them. In my opinion, this is an excellent way to observe whales up close because there is practically no impact or chance of doing damage. The whales did not notice, or care, about this tiny thing hovering above them. Even if the drone crashed or malfunctioned, it is hard to imagine this hurting the whales or even disturbing them because it is so small relative to the whale. If someone contacts me about this, I will certainly stress that this is way safer for the whales than a boat. This is a very useful tool to whale research as well.
I would absolutly love to volunteer my time and drones to help with whale research or whale non-profits! Please contact me here to set something up. I am based in Maui.