Drones are proving to be a transformational technology for a wide variety of industries and initiatives.

Scientists in Antarctica are using them to rapidly speed up and simplify the process of monitoring the condition of leopard seals; research which provides a key indicator of the health of the Antarctic ecosystem.

Up until now teams have had to find, capture and immobilise the seals, to weigh and measure them.

In tests scientists found that, using this method, it took over four hours and five people for a crew to carry out a study of 15 leopard seals. Using drones it two just 20 minutes to get the required data and a crew of two.

“We can get measurements that are just as good, or better, without ever bothering the animals,” said Douglas Krause, a research scientist in the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD). “Catching a single seal can take hours, but the drone can photograph every seal on a beach in a few minutes.”

It is just the latest example of drones making a positive impact.

They are showing their value in an increasing number of ways, including delivering goods in a more environmentally-friendly way, supporting humanitarian efforts, helping out in an emergency or providing a taxi service.