When Sky Meets Sea: Drone Technology for Protecting Marine Life and Ecosystems Posted on May 24, 2023 The oceans are essential to life on earth—yet ocean conservation remains an often overlooked component of preservation efforts, and lacks tools to meet the moment. In a changing climate with pollution and over-fishing on the rise, we need modern technology and diligent efforts to monitor the health of our seas. One such new ocean conservation tool is the unmanned aerial vehicle, also called a UAV or drone. While these have gained popularity for recreational and military use over recent years, they’re now expanding into ever more niches—including wildlife protection. UAVs offer a view of ecosystems at scale. In addition to their great range and speed, drones take high-resolution imagery in colors and wavelengths invisible to the naked eye. On top of these advantages they’re very cost-effective, bringing wildlife conservation efforts to a wider population. Unmanned aerial vehicles like those from SkyX fly long distances recording the planet’s surface. The image data undergoes processing by artificial intelligence and human intelligence to understand what’s seen. You can then use the results to assess marine life and ecosystems: for example, to track animal migrations or identify illegal poaching. The Biggest Threats to Oceans and Marine Life Source: Shutterstock The spread of industrialization has increased the number and intensity of threats to marine life. Some of the most sizable perils (just to name a few) include: Pollution, in all its many forms Over-fishing Climate change Expansion of the built environment in coastal areas The introduction of invasive species All these issues harm the plants and animals living in the sea, as well as their habitat. Pollution in particular poses a menace as more products are transported around the globe. Consider oil and gas leaks, chemicals dumped into the ocean (or indirectly spreading through the environment), and the massive amount of plastic waste society produces. Expansion of built environments into coastal areas only exacerbate these problems—widening the area of directly affected coastline, and destroying fragile, dynamic coastal ecosystems in the process. When it comes to climate change, higher temperatures impact the marine ecosystem directly. Organisms evolved for certain environments, and when the climate changes it pressures fauna and flora to adapt quickly or escape—or suffer. Those that can’t move elsewhere will see their biological condition deteriorate—and their changing ecosystems quickly taken over by invasive species. Meanwhile over-fishing threatens to destroy entire fish populations, which can throw the ecosystem out of balance. To see how all of these impacts correlate, consider, for example, the proliferation of nonnative jellyfish in the Mediterranean. These jellyfish tend to enter this new ecosystem via the Suez Canal: a manmade disruption in the natural environment. Overfishing of natural jellyfish predators—tuna, cod, turtles—and competitors for resources—sardines, anchovies—lets them bloom in abundance. Pollution also plays a part in the Mediterranean example: jellyfish thrive in warmer, more acidic water—and sewage washes more of their natural prey, zooplankton, out to sea. This all results in dangerous, unhelpful jellyfish fundamentally break down the biodiversity of the Mediterranean. And why should we care? Well, it also of course limits people who rely on that marine biodiversity. Since humans depend on the oceans for our own survival, protecting the environment also protects ourselves. What’s Being Done About Ocean Conservation? But we’re not helpless when it comes to slowing or preventing this change. Many organizations and individuals are already busy working at ocean conservation, be it by establishing legal protections for marine habitats, taking steps to minimize pollution, or using fishing methods that preserve stock. Ocean conservation efforts bring together governments, businesses, and civil society. One can think of a civic ecosystem of laws protecting marine resources, companies committing to sustainable fishing, and non-profits using drones to monitor wildlife species. All across this multi-pronged effort, technology is taking center stage, since it multiplies the effectiveness of our actions. In addition to UAVs, we’re seeing AI databases applied to solve the problems facing our seas. AI processes the data from drones—so all these technologies build on each other. With the insights from these tools you can detect illegal fishing or locate the sources of pollution with more accuracy. There are myriad other applications; technology opens our eyes to ideas we couldn’t otherwise have seen. Advantages of Using Drones for Ocean Monitoring Source: Shutterstock Unmanned aerial vehicles like SkyX’s provide unprecedented technical features for monitoring the seas. They’re more affordable and precise than manned flights, satellite imagery, or in-person surveys. UAVs’ game-changing precision and affordability enable conservationists to investigate marine animals like never before. You can track whale migrations with high fidelity, for example, or measure other organisms’ behaviors. The technology equally improves study of the ocean environment itself, revealing the progression of temperature, salinity, acidity, pollution, and other key variables. Using drones to uncover illicit fishing is another benefit for ocean conservation. The efficiency of UAVs means they can find more cases of resource abuse, which will derail poachers and others who interfere with marine life. The data on activities affecting the oceans can also feed into smarter policies. Fisheries management then delivers more equitable results, while protecting the marine environment. Endangered species can be measured more accurately to support their survival and regrowth. But it’s not just a deep-sea aid: SkyX UAVs also help monitor coastlines. The condition of the coast affects marine organisms in the area as well as the population centers nearby; thus, countries with large or important coastlines can track erosion and pollution using these UAVs. You can also use the data to make predictions about future developments. And the technology is useful in all parts of the ocean: you can have drones fly over hard-to-reach areas like rocky reefs. Unmanned aerial vehicles deliver the most innovative way to monitor and protect our precious oceans. Shore Up Ocean Conservation Efforts with SkyX The sea is important for all life on earth—so we need to do our utmost to protect it. The best efforts available now depend on consistent monitoring, as data on marine animals, plants, and the ocean itself suffuse our efforts to manage this unique ecosystem optimally. That’s where UAVs from SkyX come in to save the day. The bird’s eye view these devices offer let us keep tabs on environmental changes across the entire ocean—no stretch of sea is too remote. Such detailed information will inform our best efforts to preserve these essential habitats well into the future. SkyX UAVs are already in service protecting the environment in various other ways, such as minimizing oil and gas leaks on land. The same technology can also track marine wildlife to support conservation efforts. Book a demo to see how SkyX unmanned aerial vehicles can support your project!