No matter how many times you've visited Cedar Key, you probably haven't seen it like this! "Equipped with a high-resolution digital camera, the 14-pound aircraft designed and built by University of Florida mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate students is photographing the nests with pinpoint accuracy for wildlife officials to study."
The plane, currently called an unmanned aircraft system, is not only collecting research and locating nests, but is also testing how the birds react the the aircraft. So far the it hasn't appeared to cause any disturbances among the birds, which is the best researchers could hope for!
The unmanned aircraft has "a flight time of a little over an hour. It takes 20 images a minute — or about 1,000 photos during a 50-minute sweep over Seahorse Key. It can photograph two-thirds of a square mile in two 50-minute passes."
The aircraft has come a long way since its first model, and the technology keeps improving as well. "The Nova 2.1 has been this team's workhorse for four years now, and represents the fourth or fifth evolution of this unmanned craft...The Nova is the same model that is sold commercially by Altavian, a Gainesville company started by several of Ifju's graduate students in 2011. Click here to read the full article from The Gainesville Sun.