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Southern IFCA Drone & ROV

Southern IFCA Drone

Southern IFCA have recently procured a drone to assist with fisheries enforcement. Drones are Small Unmanned Aircrafts (SUA), within Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as defined by the Civil Aviation Authority. Drones are typically miniature aircrafts controlled from the ground by a pilot; they can have various camera attachments and have recording capabilities.

The use of drones is seen widely across law enforcement agencies, in the detection of crimes and the evidencing of offences. Drones can be used in dynamic environments, as a fast response to monitor, record and evidence illegal activity that may not otherwise be seen, as well as being used for routine observations and checks.

The drone used by Southern IFCA for fisheries enforcement, management and research is the DJI M300 RTK, fitted with a H20T camera. The camera features a laser rangefinder, thermal imaging,  zoom and wide angle functions, which, in addition to GPS technology, will assist the detection and evidencing of offences. The drone will additionally be used for management and policy functions, to observe and monitor Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other areas of environmental concern, which will subsequently feed into management measures.

Southern IFCA have worked with  heliguy™ to procure the DJI M300 RTK drone and train IFCOs as Drone Pilots. To read more about the drone and how it will be used in fisheries management, please read  heliguy™ 's blog post about Southern IFCA's drone - IFCA USING DJI M300 RTK DRONE FOR UK FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

Drone FAQs

What is a drone?

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are small remote-controlled aircraft. The drone is piloted from the ground by a person who has undergone training and proven a level of competence. Drones typically have other equipment on board, such as a device to captures images allowing it to take photographs and videos.

What type of drone does Southern IFCA have?

Southern IFCA owns 2 drones, the first is the DJI Matrice 300 drone with a single Zenmuse H20-T camera. The drone has a maximum flight time of 55 minutes, a maximum speed of 23 m/s and can fly in wind speeds of up to 33 mph. The Zenmuse H20-T is a quad-sensor camera with a 20 MP zoom camera, 12 MP wide camera, 1200m Laser Range Finder and Thermal Camera allowing it to capture images and video footage during the day and night. The second is a DJI Mini 2 drone with a 4k 4x zoom camera. The drone has a maximum flight time of 31 minutes, a maximum speed of 16 m/s and can fly in wind speeds of up to 23 mph. This can be hand launched from a patrol vessel.

How high can the drone fly and stay in the air?

The drones can be legally flown to a maximum height of 400ft (120m). This limit is set by the Civil Aviation Authority so drones do not interfere with aircraft which operate just above at 500ft. The M300 drone is powered by rechargeable batteries and fully charged these can allow a maximum flight time of 55 minutes. The Mini2 is also powered by rechargeable batteries and when fully charged has a maximum flight time of 31 minutes.

What is Southern IFCA using the drone for?

SIFCA will be using the drones as an extra resource to supplement both their compliance and management responsibilities. 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.

Is the drone just going to be used for enforcement or will the drone be used for research purposes as well?

Yes. Southern IFCA will be looking to use the drone to enhance its ability to carry out research. The aerial ability to capture and record images and data also contribute towards an improved surveying capability and will further our understanding of fishing activity in the District which can feed into management measures and evaluation.

How do Southern IFCA advertise it is using a drone?

Southern IFCA will advertise its use of a drone through its website, social media (mainly Twitter @SouthernIFCA ) and national publications. The use of a drone will be highlighted through SIFCA’s regular correspondence with Industry and the wider community, and furthermore, in regards to specific enforcement applications it is highlighted to industry on any newly issued permits.

Is the drone just being used to spy on fishermen?

Absolutely not. The drone capability has been widely publicised to 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.

Who pilots the drone?

The drone will be flown by Southern IFCA officers who will be assisted by other officers in the role of Observers. Only officers who are trained will be permitted to fly the Southern IFCA drone. This will consist of completing a GVC VLOS course through an accredited Civil Aviation Authority trainer and operating under a Civil Aviation Authority Authorisation.

Are the officers trained to fly the drone?

All officers who fly the Southern IFCA drone will have completed and passed a rigorous training course (the same taken by other UK Emergency Services), further they will all have passed the relevant qualifications as set by the Civil Aviation Authority and be required to maintain a minimum number of flying hours to maintain and build on existing skills.

What is the range between controller and drone?

The drones must follow all Civil Aviation Authority regulations and fly within 500m of the pilot. The drones cannot fly outside of the pilot’s line of sight unless a second pilot is used.

Does the drone comply with UK law?

Yes, Southern IFCA comply with all UK law as determined by the Civil Aviation Authority with regards to the use of the drones. This includes registration of the drone with the Civil Aviation Authority, having in place a certified Operation Manual, only being flown by appropriately trained persons, and complying with various restrictions in regard to where and how the drone is flown.

How long is data kept?

Data (e.g. video) will only be recorded where it is necessary, such as to record evidence or for scientific purposes. Those data which are recorded for evidential purposes will be kept securely, as required under data protection laws, and only be maintained for the duration of the investigation.

Do you comply with the guiding principles of the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice?

Yes, we have completed the Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) self-assessment tool to ensure that our use of drones complies with the Code of Practice. You can download a copy of our report to find out more . We have also completed a specific Privacy Notice  for the drone.

Will Southern IFCA be working with/using the drone with other partner organisations?

Yes, where appropriate and possible Southern IFCA intend to work with partner agencies under Section 174 of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

If I have any queries or concerns relating to Southern IFCA’s drone use who do I contact?

Any views can be shared with SIFCA via the ‘Contact Us’ section on our website and webform available here . Alternatively, Officers will be happy to speak with you if you have any queries when you see them on patrol.  

Southern IFCA ROV

Southern IFCA have recently been given a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) through a grant-funded program set out by the  Wildlife Conservation Society  in partnership with Sofar Ocean Technologies. This scheme provides eligible organisations working in education, research and conservation, including fisheries research and enforcement, with a Sofar Ocean Trident ROV .

Southern IFCA will use the Sofar Ocean Trident ROV for a number of purposes, including observing and researching marine habitats such as seagrass beds, and monitoring gear and fishing activity underwater to check compliance with fisheries legislation.

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