A Review of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Usage as an Environmental Survey Tool within Tidal Stream Environments

James Slingsby, Beth E. Scott, Louise Kregting, Jason McIlvenny, Jared Wilson, Benjamin J. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Tidal energy is a rapidly developing area of the marine renewable energy sector that requires converters to be placed within areas of fast current speeds to be commercially viable. Tidal environments are also utilised by marine fauna (marine mammals, seabirds and fish) for foraging purposes, with usage patterns observed at fine spatiotemporal scales (seconds and metres). An overlap between tidal developments and fauna creates uncertainty regarding the environmental impact of converters. Due to the limited number of tidal energy converters in operation, there is inadequate knowledge of marine megafaunal usage of tidal stream environments, especially the collection of fine-scale empirical evidence required to inform on and predict potential environmental effects. This review details the suitability of using multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles within tidal stream environments as a tool for capturing fine-scale biophysical interactions. This includes presenting the advantages and disadvantages of use, highlighting complementary image processing and automation techniques, and showcasing the limited current examples of usage within tidal stream environments. These considerations help to demonstrate the appropriateness of unmanned aerial vehicles, alongside applicable image processing, for use as a survey tool to further quantify the potential environmental impacts of marine renewable energy developments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2298
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2023


  • drones
  • foraging area
  • marine renewable energy
  • marine top predators
  • tidal energy
  • turbulence


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