Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in collaboration with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, has developed an unmanned aerial drone to help patrol the waters around the Galapagos Islands. These drones will fly around, scanning the area with infrared sensors, and try to find where poachers are setting up their operations. They will be equipped with cameras that transmit a live video stream to Galapagos National Park, where a relay station will contact authorities and inform them of where the poachers happen to be. The Ecuadorian Navy would then send out a boat to nail the poachers before they can do any more harm.
One of the things that makes using these drones so attractive is that they are fairly cheap to manufacture, running around $5000-$10,000 apiece. They still need to be tested to see how effective they are, which is expected to begin in summer. Officials are planning to eventually get 30 of the drones in the air within the next few years. While even 30 drones won’t be enough to patrol the huge expanse of ocean required, authorities are hoping that just their presence will cause poachers to think twice about their activities.
In addition to hunting for whale and shark poachers, there are future plans to use the drones to perform other useful functions with regards to these creatures. Eventually, they may be used to track migrations and monitor other activity both in the ocean and on the land. Hopefully, this new technology will stop the massacre of the shark and whale populations around the Galapagos Islands and put an end to those who would kill them in the name of profit.