To better keep an eye on Japan’s whaling fleet, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists have taken the advice of its helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman, and created battery-powered drones to follow the hunting ships.
The drones, launched from the Steve Irwin every day, can go 300km (190 miles) and “uses GPS co-ordinates and provides both video and still images to track the whaling ships,” The Guardian reports.
“Our helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman, has been lobbying for this technology for the past two years and now that we have this ‘eye in the sky’ it makes it much harder for the whaling fleet to escape,” said Watson.
The Sea Shepherd had 88 crew members on two ships until this week, when one was severely damaged by a rogue wave. It had drones going out from two of the three ships every morning before that. I presume they will continue to be sent out from the remaining two once one of those, the Steve Irwin, is done escorting the extremely damaged Brigitte Bardot back to Fremantle, Australia.
Watson is hopeful that the drones will help Sea Shepherd to do an even better job of stopping the Japanese fleet from killing whales and will, thus, help the activists to bankrupt the enterprise.
Before closing this piece out, here’s quite a bit of interesting information on drones and how Watson and crew got theirs from The Guardian:
Once exclusive to Israeli spy forces and the US air force, drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being sent on civilian missions such as crop inspections or marine mammal surveys. In April, drones hovered inside highly radioactive areas at Japan‘s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and recorded data from areas too dangerous for humans to enter.
Federal bodies in the US, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), are scrambling to monitor the burgeoning industry. According to the Los Angeles Times, the FAA will issue proposals this month to clarify rules for the use of UAVs in civilian and commercial roles.
While drones used to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, some are now available for less than £500. The unit used by Sea Shepherd is a highly durable model known as the Osprey, which can run for hundreds of hours .
It was given to Sea Shepherd by Bayshore Recycling, a New Jersey-based solid waste recycling company committed to environmental protection. In addition to paying for the drone at an estimated cost of £10,000, Bayshore also paid for pilot training to run the remote control equipment.
Everyone here at Bayshore is thrilled with the Sea Shepherd’s news of not only saving the lives of many whales, but knowing our drone will continue to track the Japanese whaling fleet in this chase,” said Elena Bagarozza, marketing co-ordinator at Bayshore.
Watson expects drones will be used to patrol environmentally sensitive areas ranging from the Galapagos Islands to other famed wildlife areas, including South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Despite severe weather in the Antarctic, [Sea Shepherd’s] drone has flown dozens of flights and had no problems so far with ice buildup on the wings or trouble negotiating the gusty winds.
“The Osprey is comfortable in the wind and can handle 40 knots,” said Jimmy Prouty, systems engineer at Hangar 18, the Kansas-based company that manufactures it. “This unit is waterproofed and has multiple security backups so that if it has problems or low battery it automatically returns to base.”