Conducting behavioral observations of obligate marine animals such as cetaceans and sirenians is challenging. These animals usually spend prolonged periods beneath the surface of the water out of view of a boat-based or land-based observer. Observations from high vantage points can overcome some of these difficulties by allowing the observer to look down through the water and view subsurface behaviors. I developed a “blimp-cam”: a video camera mounted on a small ovoid-shape, helium-filled aerostat (blimp). This new style of blimp had a number of advantages over previous systems that have used the traditional zeppelin style, including being smaller, cheaper and easier to operate. The “blimp-cam” was flown at a height of 50 m, providing an overhead view of dugongs at water depths of up to 4 m and distances up to 200 m. I used the “blimp-cam” to obtain information on dugong behavior. I assess the advantages of this new style of aerial video observation system, its limitations and potential applications in the marine environment.
The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.