The DJI M300 RTK drone is being deployed for vital fisheries and conservation management along the UK coast.
Southern IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) has acquired the flagship commercial platform, as well as the H20T camera, from drone partner heliguy™ for enforcement and research work.
The drone is a fast-response tool which provides the team with unique perspectives not available with alternative methods.
Sam Dell, Senior Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officer, said: “Drones can be used quickly in dynamic environments to monitor, record and evidence illegal activity that may not otherwise be seen. They can also be deployed for routine observations, checks, and research.
“The M300 RTK enhances our capabilities: Increasing the detection of criminal acts and improving prevention rates by acting as a deterrent.”
The M300 RTK is DJI’s most powerful commercial drone to date, with 55 minutes of flight time, upgraded safety systems and the ability to carry three payloads at once.
Southern IFCA is deploying H20T; a quad-sensor solution which comprises thermal, zoom, wide-angle and laser rangefinder capabilities.
Sam said: “We are hugely impressed with the capability and versatility of this drone solution.”
Southern IFCA Embraces Drones
Southern IFCA acquired the drone after working with partners already utilising this technology. This partnership work showed the benefits of deploying unmanned aircraft for fisheries management.
Sam said: “Southern IFCA previously worked with various police forces on multi-agency operations where the use of drones were utilised to carry out observations of large areas, while other IFCAs have already started to invest and develop drone capabilities.
“As an IFCA we are interested in cost-effective innovation which assists us in our delivery of our statutory duties. Drone technology appeared to be more accessible, and the equipment became more affordable than ever before.”
Drones For Fisheries Enforcement
Southern IFCA is using the M300 RTK for numerous reasons, with fisheries enforcement playing a big part of the Authority’s operational requirements.
Sam said: “Southern IFCA is using the drone as an extra resource to supplement our compliance and management responsibilities.
“At Southern IFCA. we have close inshore MPAs (Marine Protected Area) which have spacial restrictions on certain fishing gear types. Drone technology allows us to carry out observations in those areas and record evidence.
“The enhanced capability it offers to record evidence of possible offences using the onboard camera from perspectives not previously possible will improve the prevention (deterrent) and detection of offending.”
However, Sam is adamant that Southern IFCA will not deploy the drone to spy on fishermen.
He said: “We absolutely are not using this to spy. The drone capability has been widely publicised to the industry and the wider community. Furthermore, when in use, the drone will be operated overtly in full view of the community by officers in Southern IFCA uniform.
“When used in relation to the fishing industry, the drone will be used primarily as an evidence gathering tool in the detection of offences, however this will also serve to support legitimate fishers by demonstrating their compliance with regulations to the Authority and wider community, with first-hand evidence obtained through the drone deployment.”
Drones For Coastal Research
Drones offer a versatile solution, and Southern IFCA is also planning to use the M300 RTK to enhance its ability to carry out research.
Sam said: “The aerial ability to capture and record images and data also contributes towards an improved surveying capability and will further our understanding of fishing activity in the District which can feed into management measures and evaluation.
“Deploying unmanned aircraft feeds into the National IFCA TAG’s (Technical Advisory Group) vision of developing innovative survey methodology through drones.”
DJI M300 RTK - The Weather-proof Drone
The M300 RTK is DJI’s most weather-proof drone to date.
While its IP45 rating is not a complete waterproofing, it does ensure that the drone can still operate safely in difficult weather conditions, including a certain amount of rain.
And Sam admits this is essential, especially for operating in coastal environments.
He said: “Anyone who operates specialist equipment in the coastal environment will tell you that sea water is the enemy, so it is vital that we procure equipment that is robust enough to survive in harsh environments.
“As an Authority which has compliance and enforcement responsibility, it is imperative that we can operate all year round and in relatively adverse weather. The IP45 rating obviously has its limitations but gives us the confidence to operate in weather that maybe other drones may struggle."
Southern IFCA’s Drone Programme And Training
Southern IFCA’s current drone pilots underwent and passed their GVC drone training with heliguy™.
The team also received an in-depth drone handover from the heliguy™ instructors to help them get to grips with the aircraft.
Sam said: “I was really impressed with the training we received. Due to Covid-19 the theoretical part of our training was delivered through an online training package/platform: I have been through lots of training courses online and the remote training we received through heliguy™ was fantastic and the training team was always available when we had questions.
“We carried out the practical flight training near heliguy™ HQ and this was well delivered. We trained two officers to one instructor; both our pilots were novices and had never flown a drone before, but thanks to heliguy™, they are now confident in the role moving forward.”
Southern IFCA is in the early throes of its drone programme, but the team is already looking ahead.
Sam said: “We intend to work with other Government Partners and IFCAs to ensure that we are delivering best value for money when it comes to our drone capability.
“Of course, we can certainly see the benefit of increasing our pilot numbers and we will keep an eye on drone technology as it develops and how this can be applied and used in fisheries."
About Southern IFCA
The Southern IFCA is one of the 10 IFCAs which manage the marine inshore environment around the coast of England.
The Southern IFCA District stretches from the Devon/Dorset border in the West to the Hampshire/Sussex border in the East and covers the combined areas of the relevant councils as well as the entire Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight coastline out to 6 nautical miles from the baselines. The Southern IFCA borders the Sussex IFCA to the east and the Devon and Severn IFCA to the west.