With record sales of quadcopters over the festive season and exciting innovations making headlines on a daily basis, it's unsurprising that people are looking to the skies for the latest news. But there's an area of drone technology which doesn't get the publicity it deserves...
I'm talking about marine drones, which are currently making a splash in the ocean off Guadalupe, an island near Mexico. Underwater AUVs (Automated Unmanned Vehicles) are being used to assist marine biologists as they try to understand more about the predatory behaviour of the elusive Great White Shark.
The drone is called REMUS, and with its help biologists have been able to discover more about how Great Whites ambush prey from below, using light to their advantage. REMUS exchanges signals with a transponder previously attached to the shark via harpoon. It then self-propels, tracking down the shark using the locator signal from the transponder. It's programmed to follow at a distance and record high-quality video.
But, in an unexpected turn of events, the hunter became the hunted, and the drone was attacked by curious sharks eager for an easy meal.
In an interview with the Guardian, biologist Greg Skomal said the study, or more specifically the drone technology involved, opens the door for similar projects in the future. Marine ecology, sustainable fishing and ocean conservation all have possible drone applications. “We could apply it to studying hermit crabs as much as to Great White Sharks.”