The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands has announced the first resort-based conservation technology project using drones in the Maldives. In a unique partnership with British PhD researcher Melissa Schiele, the resort will play an integral role in a government-approved research programme to develop drone methods to search for, and quantify ocean plastics in the Maldives.
This progressive research community will support a major image collection and data processing project to monitor ocean pollution of plastics and map habitat health in the Indian Ocean, and, for the first time, will allow guests to engage in the science, exploration and hands-on process of data collection using conservation technology. The team’s wider monitoring will include identification of discarded fishing nets (ghost nets) which are causing an increased threat to wildlife from entanglement. Any nets or large pieces of debris identified by the drones will subsequently be targeted for removal.
Melissa Schiele, a PhD researcher at Loughborough University and Zoological Society of London (ZSL), has built a team of scientists and commercially trained drone pilots, to create a unique community of conservation experts from across the globe. The team, including Dr Luca Fallati of MaRHE, (the Marine Research and Higher Education Centre and part of the University of Milano Bicocca), will use multirotor drones donated by The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, and a water-landing fixed-wing drone donated by USA based NGO Oceans Unmanned.
Image sampling will occur over the ocean and reefs at select locations and times which ensures temporal and spatial resolution for the researchers, and also strictly ensures privacy for guests. After images are collected, they are processed and analysed for debris and the resulting data can then feed into greater understanding of the distribution and densities of plastics in the Maldives over time.
Through The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands’ Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Program guests will have the opportunity to join the newly formed research team in their ground-breaking work. The journey will start at the resort, where with professional drone simulation training software, guests will explore the latest scientific research with naturalists, while testing their piloting skills. Stepping out in to the field, guests will navigate the ocean through drones piloted by the team, in search for ghost nets while experiencing the precious wildlife, endemic to the Maldives’ fragile coral reefs.
To support the environmental research and wildlife protection programme, the resort and community is set to create a meaningful and inclusive legacy for the Maldivian community. The research initiative will offer a unique platform for local children to visit and learn of the emerging importance of marine technology, including drones and hydrophones in monitoring marine life. Key fieldwork will be held at MaRHE, one of the project’s academic partner facilities in the neighbouring Faafu Atoll, and who host world-class university-level education for local and international marine biology and environmental science students. Maldivian marine scientists will be integral to the ongoing evolution of the programme.
The methods developed at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and MaRHE are set to be introduced around the country, to create a network of dedicated drone operators. A sustained plastics monitoring programme will build a baseline for the dynamics of pollution, with the aim to support policy and legislation change at local, national and international levels.
Designed for adults and children, this exclusive programme led by marine naturalists, collaborates with world-renowned oceanographic explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau, and provides a host of activities with the preservation of our planet at its core. Guests are able to explore the ocean depths in the legacy of the great Cousteaus, with children offered complimentary marine biology classes to kick start their passion for the ocean early, teaching them the importance of conservation and respect for marine environments. The programme inspires guests to discover, explore and engage in nature not just beneath the water, but through the fascinating fauna of the Maldives, and high above sea-level to the wonders of the galaxy.