Beluga Whale Rescued With Drone

Everyone likes a good story, especially a search and rescue story, involving animals as well as humans. The Norwegian People’s AID (NPAID) Search and Rescue Unit, rescued a Beluga whale, which is an endangered species, by using the AtlasPRO UAS drone, which is used all over the world. 

Atlas Dynamics is a global leader in autonomous unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and is one of the first small automated solutions to be introduced. 

“The Norwegian People’s AID (NPAID) Mid-Troms unit is a volunteer SAR unit, operating in northern Norway specializing in first response and lifesaving operations in extreme Arctic environments. The unit covers a region of Arctic Norway famous for its sparsely populated mountain ranges and many fjords. The NPAID team ensures the safety of tourists in the region, especially as adventure tourism continues to increase.”*

A Drone is Essential

On July 29, 2020, the Wildlife Board of the Målselv municipality in Norway was notified of a white whale on its way up a river from the sea, which poses a great threat to the whale because the river has sandbanks and depth variations that can cause a tide-trap.

A wildlife rescue operation was launched to lead the beluga whale back to deep water, but during that operation, the rescuers lost sight of the whale. The local wildlife force quickly requested the assistance of the Norwegian People’s Aid Midt-Troms to help locate the missing endangered beluga whale, and provide aerial information and guidance for the operation. NPAID Midt-Troms is well qualified and has a very good reputation for carrying out missions by locating and rescuing people in extreme Arctic conditions. By using their expertise and Atlas’ drone technology, NPAID was able to locate the missing whale and coordinate the rescue operation by making sure all the participants had the information they needed to return the whale back to its own habitat.

Kenneth Brattli Molund, the unit leader and RPAS project SAR technology integration manager from NPAID in Mid-Troms, explained:

“We searched from a relatively high altitude of 70m-100m, since the object we were looking for would stand out so markedly. . . .  Using the AtlasPRO drone, we were able to locate the whale within 10 minutes, create a clear situational overview, and control the rescue operation from above.”*

Returning the Whale Back Home to Sea

The local wildlife marine force created a firm sound by using empty bottles that were towed to the rear of the boat in order to attract the whale out towards its natural environment — the sea. The sound Eco-waved the orientation of the whale, which followed the boat back to the sea, its place of safety. One of the main values of the task force, when addressing wildlife, is to do so without any physical interference, which is exactly how this operation occurred. 

As a highly sophisticated and professional search & rescue (SAR) force, NPAID Midt-Troms is an early adopter of innovative technologies and its project team is constantly evaluating tools geared towards optimizing SAR operations. 

Molund shares why they chose AtlasPRO:

“We have chosen the AtlasPRO for its ability to withstand and deliver unique sensor setups and operate in harsh conditions, and also due to Atlas’ capabilities as a technology design-house, that allows us to dream bigger and co-design better, faster and safer SAR solutions.

We are extremely proud to see our technology being used by professionals, such as NPAID Midt-Troms, for impactful missions. We are used to our products saving human life, but  we are extremely happy that we have the ability to assist these great people with wildlife protection as well.

This mission was a special one for us. We are very happy that we were able to contribute to both animals and people.”* 

Who doesn’t like a happy ending?

This story of a whale certainly has a happy ending!

Due to the skillful operation of the workers on the ground, sea, and air, the whale was last seen in another fjord not too far away from where it strayed — safe.


As a highly sophisticated and professional search & rescue (SAR) force, NPAID Midt-Troms is an example for others why the company has such an excellent reputation. It is showing what can be done when a company adopts innovative technologies early and its project team constantly evaluates tools aimed at optimizing operations.

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