NWS’s Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center Builds a UAS Program


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The link below provides a video that highlights early successes with UAS applications by the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center (APRFC). The APRFC is funded by the UAS Program to look at the feasibility of using small UAS to map flood inundation, as well as for inspecting towers with meteorological instruments. Alaska’s communities face flood risk from river ice jams, glacial dammed lake outbursts, and rainfall-driven events. So far, UAS show strong potential for helping improve flood forecasts and other decision support products from the National Weather Service.

Developing a UAS-Based Approach for Surveying Northern Fur Seals in Alaska

Article and Figures Provided By: Katie Sweeney (AFSC/MML)

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The northern fur seal population in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska has experienced drastic declines. In 2018, St. Paul Island fur seals reached the lowest pup production levels since 1915, while pup abundance in the Pribilof Islands has declined 50 percent since 1998. It is imperative that NOAA Fisheries continue to monitor and document this decline to identify potential threats to recovery and inform management decisions. Currently, population estimates are derived from biennial pup abundance surveys and are conducted on the ground, requiring the participation of more than 20 researchers and support staff for up to 21 days. This method is costly, labor intensive, and involves disturbing the entire population of fur seals on both islands—an estimated 100,000 pups and many more adults and juveniles.

In partnership with the UAS Program Office, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML) is working towards developing a survey approach using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).