AMHERST, Mass. — A University of Massachusetts oceanographer is receiving federal money to design and conduct the first drone surveys of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Molly Lutcavage and colleagues will use the surveys to provide regional estimates of Atlantic Bluefin tuna populations. She is director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Gloucester Marine Research Station. The work is funded by a $145,694 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The numbers of Atlantic Bluefin tuna are currently estimated by observers and spotter pilots. A university spokeswoman says Lutcavage and colleagues will develop new analytical techniques. The spokeswoman says Lutcavage’s group is one of NOAA’s pilot research groups using a drone to study fish at sea. The vehicle is mounted with a high-resolution camera.

Lutcavage’s research team will collaborate with long-term tuna research partners and stars of television’s “Wicked Tuna” series, Captain Bill “Hollywood” Muniz and his spotter, Mark Brochu. Wayne Perryman, leader of a NOAA project using hexacopters to study killer whales off the coast of British Columbia, is advising the UMass Amherst group on this project.