Noise levels of multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles with implications for potential underwater impacts on marine mammals

Despite the rapid increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in marine mammal research, knowledge of the effects of UAVs on study animals is very limited. We recorded the in-air and in-water noise from two commonly used multi-rotor UAVs, the SwellPro Splashdrone and the DJI Inspire 1 Pro, to assess the potential for negative noise effects of UAV use. The Splashdrone and Inspire UAVs produced broad-band in-air source levels of 80 dB re 20 μPa and 81 dB re 20 μPa (rms), with fundamental frequencies centered at 60 Hz and 150 Hz. The noise of the UAVs coupled poorly into the water, and could only be quantified above background noise of the recording sites at 1 m depth when flying at altitudes of 5 and 10 m, resulting in broad-band received levels around 95 dB re μPa rms for the Splashdrone and around 101 dB re μPa rms for the Inspire.

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