Following the devastating Black Summer bushfires, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife has been using drones to assist with post-fire recovery. Speaking as part of the digital DroneDeploy Conference this week, NSW National Parks and Wildlife chief remote pilot Gareth Pickford explained that using drones to assist various stakeholders within the NSW government to assess the damage caused by bushfires last summer is a cost-effective and efficient way to collect data. "The types of data that we actually were planning on getting out in the field was around fire severity areas that were affected by fires, not just in local parks that are open to tourism, but also wilderness areas, which are natural habitats to certain species that may have been affected by fire," he said. "We wanted to understand how much they were going to be affected by the fire, and its post-effects." Some of the specific activities that the drones were used for included ecology assessments, which are live snapshots and maps of different terrains across the state; multispectral mapping to examine the types of vegetation that either survived or were destroyed; archeological analysis of historical sites; and evening thermal scanning to assess the animal population in certain areas, particularly in remaining vegetation patches.
Bycatch from fishing nets is causing the accidental death of hundreds of thousands of seabirds, seals, turtles and dolphins across the globe each year, a study warned. In response, the World Wide Fund for Nature and Sky Ocean Rescue have called for fishing vessels to be remotely monitored with cameras, to help address the issue. According to the WWF's'What's in the net?' report, millions of sharks, at least 720,000 seabirds and 345,000 seals or sealions are accidentally caught each year. These are joined by more than 250,000 turtles and 300,000 cetaceans such as dolphins. The WWF called on the UK to take the lead in tackling these losses.
A drone boat which can patrol the English Channel and track migrants on 12-hour missions is being trialled for Special Forces during a massive robot war games exercise. Yesterday it took part in the Royal Navy's robotic Unmanned Warrior exercise, the biggest ever war game using more than 50 types of drones off the UK coast. The inflatable P950 boat - of which a manned version is already in service and is used by elite troops - can be driven both manually by a remote control and also in an autonomous mode. Using a remote control with a joystick, troops on a ships miles away or on land can tell it where to go and have a live 360 degree angle of what the boat sees. Or they can put it in autonomous mode and just give the boat a destination, and the boat will navigate itself avoiding any obstacles it comes into contact with.
The UK government must do more to manage protected areas in its seas to ensure they are not just "paper parks", members of the parliament have said. Despite a Tory party 2015 manifesto pledge to complete a network of marine conservation zones to protect coastal and underwater habitats, only 50 of 127 originally recommended sites around England have been designated. A report from the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee hit out at "unacceptable" delays in creating the network, and said it should be put in place as soon as possible and be "considerably larger and more ambitious". The government had "moved the goalposts" by setting unreasonably high standards of evidence for designating new protected areas, the MPs said, and once sites are designated they must be properly protected, with strong monitoring and management, without which they are just "lines on a map". The government should consider investing in aerial and marine drones to deter illegal activities such as destructive fishing, the report said.