The Sea Shepherd aerial drone comes under fire

The Sea Shepherd aerial drone comes under fire


Poachers shoot down anti-poaching drone in the Gulf of California, via the LA Times

Houthi Forces capture US Navy undersea drone off Yemen, via The Asian Times

 Two worrying reports emerged in the past couple of weeks that highlight one potential vulnerability of autonomous vessels – of being captured or destroyed by aggressive forces.

First of all, it was reported in the LA Times that an aerial drone operated by environmental conservationist group Sea Shepherd had been shot down by poachers. The drone was deployed within the Gulf of California, its mission to monitor illegal activities that pose a threat to the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

The drone camera, which was transmitting in real-time to its operators, captured a fisherman firing at it repeatedly from a small speedboat, before eventually succumbing to the attack.

Then the Navy of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement released a jubilant video showing the capture of what they claim to be a US spy drone, but which a US defence spokesperson identified as an unmanned underwater vehicle carrying out meteorological research.

Whether in sea or air, unmanned vessels are by their very nature vulnerable to aggression, but this potential downside also underlines one of autonomous vessels’ greatest strengths, in that they completely remove the risk of harm to human operatives. Whether deployed in high-risk or environmentally harsh areas, no matter what happens to them, the risk to human operatives is zero. This has been highlighted to us here at NLA by interested commissioners in all sectors – from oil and gas to academia - as one of their key benefits.

It will be interesting to see how Sea Shepherd will be able to use the evidence its drone collected before its demise, as the very act of coming under fire was also its last use as a documenter of illegal activity!


In South America, are the tides turning against illegal fishing?, via Conservation International

From Ecuador, an illustration of how good can emerge from bad. In August 2017, those interested in environmental protection the world over were shocked by the sheer size of a haul of illegal sharks (and many other endangered species) intercepted by Ecuadorian authorities in the Galápagos Marine Reserve. More than 6,000 sharks were found on board the detained Chinese vessel.

This article records an update from Luis Suarez, vice president of Conservation International Ecuador, on how the case has led to new approaches to enforcement of illegal fishing. Rather than attempting to prove how and where the illegal haul was caught, the prosecutor focused instead on the irrefutable fact that the endangered species in question were on board. The case therefore focused on the fact that the ship was illegally transporting endangered species, without any mention of illegal fishing.

The end point? The judge sentenced the 20 Chinese fishermen with up to four years in jail and fined them a total of US$ 5.9 million for transporting endangered species off the Galápagos Islands.

The case has also raised the profile of the size and scale of the illegal fishing problem in the region, and caused this to ripple out beyond fishing circles and into the general public debate.


Bangladesh is thinking big by thinking blue, via blogs.worldbank.org

This timely blog from the World Bank pays tribute to the pioneering work of Bangladesh in exploring the potential of their coastal and ocean area.

In 2014, it says, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became the first head of state to deliver a televised speech on the blue economy, heralding Bangladesh’s ocean space as a “new horizon” for sustainable economic growth and development.

The OECD estimates that our oceans will be the source of the greatest number of new jobs over the next several decades, and Bangladesh is preparing to ride that wave – to balance ocean health with growing ocean wealth.

This academic paper from 2017 by M. Gulam Hussain et al, reviewing opportunities, constraints and challenges of blue economy development in Bangladesh, includes useful sections on technology adoption. We look forward to more progress in the coming months.


10 technologies to shake up maritime in 2018, via marinemec.com

And finally, Martyn Wingrove, editor of Marine Electronics and Communications, provides a great overview of the breadth of maritime technologies that look set for considerable growth in the year ahead.

From machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to blockchain and autonomous vessels, this list highlights how the key enabling technologies sweeping across all industries may have a specific impact within maritime. Which do you think is most likely to have the greatest impact in 2018?

Please check back next week for more Blue Economy Technology news.