Monday, December 22, 2014

Drone testing delayed to protect migratory birds

A red knot, also know as a "moon bird," spotted Sunday, May 25, 2014, at Reeds Beach, N.J. (Photo courtesy of Allan Baker)
A red knot, also know as a "moon bird," spotted Sunday, May 25, 2014, at Reeds Beach, N.J. (Photo courtesy of Allan Baker)
CAPE MAY - Drone test flights in South Jersey are being delayed to shield protected migratory birds.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology was set to begin testing drones in July at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service postponed the testing until November.

NJIT professor Michael Chumer told the Atlantic City Press that officials blocked the flights to protect piping plovers and red knots that migrate to New Jersey coastal areas during the summer.

"Fish and Wildlife thought that the testing may be a little too close to the piping plover and red knot, both threatened species, so they imposed seasonal restrictions," Chumer said.

Red knots arrive at the Delaware Bay each spring during their annual migration from South America and feed on the eggs of horseshoe crabs as they fly toward their Arctic breeding grounds. Cape May County's beaches are a popular summer nesting site for piping plovers.

The birds are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and New Jersey law.

NJIT has permission to test drones at the Coast Guard center between Nov. 1 and March 15. The school will be permitted to fly drones from the Coast Guard base as far as 141/2 nautical miles over the ocean.

The college is working to develop drone technology for communications during storms or other catastrophic events.

Associated Press
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