Hakai Institute

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Weather conditions on Quadra and Clavert Island

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A Drone in the Woods - Hakai Institute

A Drone in the Woods

Hakai has added two rather unique new team members this year: Gvui (Heiltsuk for “raven”) and Wikv (“eagle”). The pair are Hakai’s first aircraft, two DJI Inspire 1 drones that are already helping photographer Grant Callegari create videos and aerial photos of the work being done at the Calvert Island and Quadra Island field stations.

The drones carry 4k wide-angle video cameras mounted on gimbals for exceptionally smooth video. They can transmit images live from 2 kilometres away, allowing a second camera operator to manage the camera while the pilot takes care of the flying. They’re fast, they’re nimble, and they’re already making an impression.

“They’re amazing,” says Grant, who is currently incorporating drone footage into the first Hakai video of the season, an overview of the herring spawn. “They let me get cameras in places and get shots and angles that I otherwise would never be able to get. It’s a game changer.”

Using sensitive equipment in the wilderness is always a challenge—doubly so if it’s flying around. Due to a firmware malfunction, one drone has already hit the rocks, and is in the shop for repairs. The other has been limited at different times by GPS glitches, wind, and rain: they’re not meant for Central Coast weather.

Adding to that challenge is the terrain itself. The islands here are densely wooded, with not a lot to work with on the shoreline either, making for white-knuckle take offs and landings.

But the difficulty is worth it. The Central Coast has spectacular scenery that shines when it’s seen from the air. Gvui and Wikv are providing Hakai with endless opportunities for unique and memorable imagery. We can gather shots that just one or two years ago would have been impossible without a helicopter—and now we have two.