Rovers used as ice-breakers with penguins

4 Nov 2014

Rover camera with penguins. Image via Nature Methods

A new, awesome toy for scientists is going to revolutionise wildlife research and footage: a remote controlled car!

Capturing wildlife up close on camera is quite difficult, as animals react differently around camera-people than they do around their own kind. But fear not, as recent research from France has shown that penguins don’t mind camera-mounted rovers getting in on their business.

Yvon Le Maho’s study put heart monitors on a pack of king penguins and sent a camera-mounted rover into the huddle, prompting lower increases in the birds’ heart rates than when humans approached the group. The researchers then did the same with a group of emperor penguins (far shier), and even a colony of elephant seals.

Offering scientists an excellent opportunity to learn more about these animals and indeed their reaction to global warming, this is as exciting as it is cute. However, it’s hardly a world first.

Last year, the BBC’s Penguins: Spy in the Huddle series saw researches pop a camera into an array of different motorised devices (chick cam was awesome, but rock cam was clearly the coolest) and spend nearly a year in the close company of penguins – deploying 50 spycams to capture some pretty epic footage.

Still from Penguin: Spy in the Huddle. Image via

The recording devices got right into chick groups, hung around mating penguins and even got into fairly one-sided skirmishes with their camera subjects. If you haven’t seen it, do.

Still from Penguin: Spy in the Huddle. Image via

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic