Aerial digital surveying techniques using aircraft flying at significantly higher and safer altitudes than observer-based aerial surveys have become a key tool in surveying offshore environments worldwide. In preparation for offshore wind energy development, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has initiated what is probably the world’s largest (43,500 km2) and highest-resolution offshore aerial survey of marine wildlife. The survey uses ultrahigh-resolution aerial digital imagery captured with the purpose-built camera system “Shearwater III” at 1.5 cm ground sampling distance (GSD) from a twin-engine aircraft flying at 415 m. This baseline study using an innovative survey technique will facilitate a more efficient planning of energy production offshore by providing the necessary information to meet regulatory requirements for environmental review of wind energy areas (WEAs). This review includes a high-level summary of methods and highlights the advantages of undertaking the NYSERDA surveys using high-resolution digital aerial techniques.
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