The Danish authorities have been trialling a high-tech drone over waters off the north of Jutland for the last few months to assess its capabilities for monitoring fisheries.
The testing programme has been assessing how drone data can be used to check for fishing in restricted areas, and to monitor discarding, as well as providing support in prioritising fishing vessels for further checks. Currently, vessels are selected for inspection on the basis of an analysis of data, such as the fishermen’s own reports in the landing declaration and log book, data from other monitoring systems such as AIS and VMS, and previous violation history.
The Textron Aerosonde drone has a 370cm and weighs 36kg. It is launched from a catapult and retrieved into a large landing net at the end of each mission. It can operate up to 140km from the coast, and has an endurance of around nine hours.
During fisheries control operations, a fisheries controller sits next to the pilot to provide guidance, or follows the missions online via a web application. Trials have covered areas off the north and west of of Jutland between Ålbæk Bay and Ringkøbing Fjord.
‘We currently use a number of satellite-based systems to monitor the fishing vessels that fish in Danish waters. In this way, we always have a full overview of where the fishing vessels are geographically. Over the summer, we have been testing how a long-range drone can be used to supplement the data on the behavior of the fishing vessels that we have from the satellite surveillance,’ said co-ordinator Lone Agathon Jensen at the Fisheries Agency.
‘As an example, with a drone it will be possible to quickly check and document whether there is illegal discarding of fish or fishing in prohibited areas such as Natura 2000 areas or spawning areas that are closed to fishing. The speed of the drone means that it can reach a vessel relatively quickly to carry out checks. At the same time, it is difficult to hear and see from a distance. This means that a fishing vessel that deliberately breaks the rules by using illegal fishing gear cannot manage to empty the net into the sea before we arrive and document the violation.’
The Danish Fisheries Agency has participated in the drone test with the Coastguard, the Customs Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The drone and the work to get it in the air is financed by EMSA and forms part of a pan-European drone project.