Low Cost Drones for Ocean Conservation

A grant project funded by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions to use hobbyist drone technology to protect our oceans.

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Project Description

SoarOcean will demonstrate that the considerable advancements seen in recent years in low cost drone technology can create a revolution in aerial monitoring platforms for conservation purposes. These small unmanned aerial vehicles can be built and flown for a small fraction of the cost of a single flight using traditional manned surveillance aircraft. Additionally, they are simple to operate, functioning in ways similar to hobby recreational aircraft but equipped with the same capabilities of their military-class surveillance counterparts. Communities and conservation organizations can harness this technology to change the way we protect our oceans. National Geographic SoarOcean conservation drone Contact us to learn more

Project Plan

The research behind SoarOcean seeks to demonstrate that these same benefits can be done using the affordable versions of these platforms. There has been very limited work, conducted by recreational drone experts, showing that this could be successful. The research will be conducted in the Channel Islands Marine Reserve, which will allow numerous field tests in varying conditions (weather, distance, time-of-day, visibility, etc). Multiple expeditions will be planned on the islands withing specific resource constraints, which aim to effectively provide the constraints of operation in less technologically developed communities. Every step of this process and best practices will be documented heavily through photographs and descriptions that can be incorporated into a handbook, articles, and blog posts on this website. The outcome of this work will be to provide demonstrated capabilities of low cost drone platforms to coastal communities looking to provide monitoring capacity for marine protected areas. This will include the documentation of what equipment is needed and the best practices and limitations related to operation. The aim is to provide this guidance to coastal communities and ocean conservation NGOs in order to help promote the use of this technology for conservation.

  • Drone technology will change the face of conservation. We need demilitarize this platform through the maker movement for use in environmental monitoring and protection. SoarOcean seeks to do that for our marine reserves.- Shah Selbe, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Grantee