A top White House aide said Friday that the administration will accept applications for remote-control boats for marine biologists who can help hunt in the ocean in an effort to protect endangered species.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been considering ways to use unmanned drones and unmanned boats to hunt for and tag endangered marine species in an attempt to protect marine ecosystems, including dolphins, whales, turtles and sharks.NOAA director Michael Hopkins told reporters Friday that a proposal to use drones and boats will begin moving forward next month.
The agency would have the ability to use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to help monitor fish and other marine creatures for signs of threats, such as the decline of dolphins in the Great Barrier Reef.
“If you think of a ROV as a car, we’re going to use this same concept to help us identify and capture marine life,” Hopkins said.
“If you’re going after a dolphin, you can go to a remote area and use this drone to capture that dolphin.
If you’re looking at a shark, you could use this to catch that shark and tag it.”
Hopkins said the goal of the new initiative is to increase collaboration between the U.S. and countries around the world to better understand the threats marine life faces.
“We’re going in with the idea of working with our friends and allies around the globe to try to understand what’s going on, and to better coordinate efforts in the future,” Hopkins told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Hopkins acknowledged that the U:s might be able to use the drones and ROVs to track endangered marine creatures in a few cases.
But he said the effort would be designed to be limited to the Great Basin, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico.
He also said that using drones and underwater robots to monitor ocean life is something NOAA has been doing for years, but it hasn’t had the benefit of developing a more robust technology to track large, potentially damaging threats.
“In the past, we’ve had the technology, and now we need to make it available to everybody, not just NOAA,” Hopkins added.
In an interview with The Associated Review, Hopkins said the agency has been working with scientists to develop a drone- and RAV-based technology to locate large, damaging threats, including killer whales.
Hopkins said NOAA has also developed a small fleet of small boats that can be used for smaller ocean research, as well as drones that can go out to sea and take photographs.
“These technologies can be deployed in large areas to assist in our efforts to protect species, and they can also be deployed to provide an even greater sense of situational awareness to us as a nation,” Hopkins stated.
“As we move forward, NOAA will be providing a list of the species that we are interested in tracking and tagging, as we continue to develop this technology,” he said.