The future of capturing whale-watching footage in Southern California appears to have arrived and, yes, it involves drones.
The accompanying fin whale video, captured Monday by Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Whale Watching in Dana Point, provides an idea of what could be in store in the coming months and years.
A lot will depend, however, on regulations, whatever they might be, and how they might come into play.
NOAA whale-watching guidelines suggest that boaters remain 100 yards from whales, but they're only guidelines. So far, guidelines pertaining to the use of drones for photography have not been drawn up.
But NOAA officials will be discussing this issue in upcoming meetings, an agency spokeswoman said.
Airplanes and helicopters are supposed to stay at least 1,000 feet above cetaceans, but are toy-sized drones such as the kind used by Brennan the same as airplanes and helicopters? (See image at right, courtesy of Gordon Gates.)
Brennan's battery-operated Phantom quadcopter, launched from the 95-foot Dana Pride, hovered at an elevation of about 50 feet.
The footage shows an estimated 70-foot fin whale swimming and stealing breaths not far from the Orange County coast. The aerial look provides a unique perspective and enables viewers to see the entire length of these majestic leviathans.
The footage was posted on the Dana Wharf Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, and was being widely shared. It was later uploaded to YouTube.
Brennan has been practicing with the drone for weeks, and at least one other commercial whale-watching business has purchased one.
Dana Wharf, however, is the first local operation to show off footage from what it's referring to as the Dana Wharf Copter Cam.
Meanwhile, people are experimenting elsewhere, too.
Earlier this month off Norway, killer whales were filmed swimming around kayakers, via unmanned quad-copter. Here's a screen grab from that video:
–Images are video screen grabs