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Security and Defense
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Drones on Defense: How Robots Protect Nature
UAV enthusiasts are teaming up with environmental authorities around the world on ecological missions.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Jul 23, 2014

Michael Sabal of the Belize Fisheries Department prepares to deploy a drone to overlook and thereby help protect coral reefs from illegal lobster fishing.

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Drones have gotten a bad rap in the press lately.

But there is a whole other dimension to the robotic planes, and that’s the good they can do to help, not hurt, what most mainstream minds freely acknowledge is very vulnerable – the environment.

As The New York Times reports:

"The military use of armed drones is well known and contentious. But the use of much smaller unmanned planes, closer in size to the remote-controlled planes hobbyists fly, is spreading into all sorts of areas, particularly when they are equipped with cameras. Drones have been used to monitor seabird populations off Australia and rain forests in Indonesia, to study caribou and their effects on vegetation in Greenland, to combat poaching in Nepal and to conduct other conservation work in Madagascar, Gabon and other countries."

Just last month the government of Belize began employing drones to patrol for illegal fishing activities that pose a threat to the Central American coastal nation’s coral reefs – the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

With the assistance of the Wildlife Conservation Society based in The Bronx of New York, the dozen areas of coral reefs already under government protection are safer than they’ve ever been.

The ongoing effort in Belize is also thanks to Conservation Drones a small, new non-profit organization that, as its name implies, takes as its mission the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to protect the environment. It is based in Australia with active chapters in the USA, the UK and Switzerland and is sending some 100 drones out worldwide to help keep an "eye in the sky" on nature by looking out for eroded habitat, count endangered species in faraway places and, as in Belize, keep a watch out for poachers.

The drones are to be used daily for the next six months or so in Belize, and then government authorities will evaluate their effectiveness, the NYT says.

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