Earlier this year, Ocean Alliance CEO and resident drone expert Iain Kerr helped Sea Shepherd Conservation Society put together a drone package to support Operation Milagro II in the Sea of Cortez. Operation Milagro II was launched in November 2015 with the objective of stopping the extinction of the endangered vaquita porpoise, principally through entanglement in gill nets. The vaquita are one of the world’s smallest cetaceans, and only inhabit the northernmost part of the Gulf of California. They are the most endangered marine mammal in the world, with the population suspected to be only a few dozen individuals. Although all gill nets are dangerous for vaquita, the greatest threat is posed by the gill nets used to catch the Totoaba fish due to the size of the mesh.
Having set up successful daytime patrols and working closely with the Mexican government, Sea Shepherd believed that the poachers might be setting gill nets at night. Sea Shepherd staff called Iain Kerr and explained the problem. After a series of conversations, Iain suggested the DJI developer drone Matrice 1 and the FLIR Vue Pro night vision thermal camera. “The Matrice is a very adaptable platform. Crucial for this project was reliability of the DJI product, the 40 minute flight time, 3 mile range, and plug and play capacity of the FLIR Vue Pro Night Vision camera,” said Kerr.
Just this week, Iain received an email from Sea Shepherd thanking him for the support and success of this collaboration.
“We are over the moon with these results,” said Kerr. “So often we hear bad news about drones. This project proves the enormous potential of drones as wildlife conservation tools.”