Conservation Technology

The Maldives

At Big Blue Foundation, we are championing the integration of advanced technology with marine conservation through a trailblazing initiative led by Dr. Melissa Schiele, our Chief Scientific Advisor. Utilising state-of-the-art technology, including fixed-wing, water-landing drones, we will establish the first conservation technology hub in The Maldives. Our groundbreaking initiative will launch an era of unprecedented environmental exploration, surveying and protection.

Drones are the new guardians of the ocean, a vigilant eye in the sky to thwart poaching and illegal fishing. They are also an effective non-invasive resource for surveying marine megafauna like whales, sharks and turtles, soaring quietly above the waves capturing detailed images and revolutionising our understanding of these enigmatic creatures. But that’s just the beginning, The Maldives has lacked a comprehensive marine habitat map—until now. Our drones are able to map uncharted coastal habitats, identifying critically important ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, sanctuaries for diverse marine species and powerful carbon sinks that play an essential role in mitigating climate change.

Another vital role that drones play is to find marine plastic pollution, especially discarded Ghost nets, a serious problem in the region. We believe that the the problem could be alleviated with machine learning algorithms that detect the nets from drone images, and with over 59,000 drone images captured so far for analysis, Big Blue Foundation is expanding on this work by setting up a new local capacity building initiative to provide drone pilot training to the local community in 2024.

Discarded ‘Ghost nets’ are a serious problem in the region, but this could be alleviated with machine learning algorithms that detect the nets from drone images. So far over 59,000 drone images have been captured for analysis and Big Blue Foundation is expanding on this work by building capacity in-situ by providing drone pilot training to local students and individuals working in marine conservation. Ultimately we will provide sustainable employment to Maldivians in order to scale ocean plastics data-collection efforts throughout the archipelago. Our project will address gender imbalance to provide training for Maldivian young women as well as young men. The output from our collaborative research will feed into a national database so the Maldivian Government can make policy changes and open discussions with international Governments to stop plastics entering the ocean.