This is a report on the state of the art methodology and on questions that arise while one is preparing to use aircraft in a biotelemetry study. In general the first step in preparing to mount an antenna on an aircraft is to consult with a certified aircraft mechanic. Aircraft certification is discussed to provide background information concerning the role of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regulating the use of biotelemetry antennas on aircraft. However, approval of any specific design of antenna mount rests with local FAA authority. Airplane and helicopter antenna attachments are described. Performance of the receiving antenna system is discussed with emphasis on how variables as aircraft type and antenna configuration may influence reception. The side-looking vs. front-looking antenna configuration and the VHF vs. HF frequency band are generally recommended for most aerial tracking studies. Characteristics of receivers, transmitters, and antennas that might influence tracking are discussed. Specific topics such as calibration of receivers and transmitter quality control are considered. Suggestions in preparing for and conducting tracking flights that will improve overall efficiency and safety are presented. Search techniques, including procedures for conducting large and specific area surveys as well as methods to improve and evaluate search efficiency, are discussed. A concluding section considers special topics such as low-level operations and the use of helicopters. Diagrams of antenna mounts, equipment check-off lists, and antenna test procedures are included as appendices.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
Procedures for the use of aircraft in wildlife biotelemetry studies
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Western Ecological Research Center