Ritz-Carlton Maldives launches a Conservation Technology Drone Project
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands is proud to announce the first guest-collaborative drone project in conservation technology science. 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, plastics in the Indian Ocean and on the shorelines of the Maldives.
This progressive research community will support a major data collection project to monitor ocean pollution of plastics, its impact on sea turtles, marine life and biodiversity in the Indian Ocean, and will, for the first time allow guests to engage in the science, exploration and hands-on process of data collection using advanced conservation technology.
As the first ‘resort biologist’ in the Maldives, PhD researcher at Loughborough University and the London Zoological Society, Melissa Schiele has built a team of resident naturalists, including 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 High Education Centre, will use drones donated by leading marine technologists, Oceans Unmanned, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and hydrophones, to collect images and analyse data to feed into ground-breaking plastics detection and wildlife conservation projects.
Through The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands’ Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment programme 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 world leading 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 drone piloted by the team, in search for discarded fishing nets (ghost nets) while experiencing the precious wildlife, endemic to the Maldives’ fragile coral reefs.
The information collected will contribute to fresh research and will feed in to the Olive Ridley Project – sea turtle conservation – working to centralise data on drifting fishing nets and turtle-life, to tackle loss of life due to entanglement in ghost nets. Any nets or large pieces of debris identified by the drones will subsequently be targeted for removal and recycling,
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 importance of marine technology including drones and hydrophones in protecting 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 students. Maldivian marine scientists will be integral to the ongoing evolution of the programme.
Future research will also aim to study areas including dolphin response to environmental sound through the use of hydrophones. This technology will allow the naturalists and a partner lab at Loughborough University to analyse sound signals from dolphins and boat movements around the resort to help them understand the behaviour of local dolphins and to identify if a relationship between the dolphins and other underwater sounds exists. Results from this monitoring and study can influence resort operations positively, helping to create symbiotic environments for sound-sensitive wildlife, encouraging their optimum natural habitat.
Population growth, tourism, over-fishing and environmental factors are having an increasing and dramatic impact on the health of the marine ecosystem of the Maldives. Its rich biodiversity is at the same time extremely delicate and subject to drastic modification due to global climate change and local anthropic pressures, as well as the threat of rising temperatures and ocean acidification.
This initiative creates a new standard in the tourism industry, working collaboratively to conserve some of the world’s most fragile natural environments, making positive change to use and manage resources responsibly.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment programme at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
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.
About Melissa Schiele – Melissa Schiele is a senior international project manager and conservation technologist who is working towards a PhD in Engineering at Loughborough University and the Zoological Society of London. Her research focuses on developing fixed wing drones and creating methods and protocols for their use in remote locations. The operational contexts are wildlife monitoring, plastics detection and illegal fishing surveillance.
About Dr Luca Fallati
Dr Luca Fallati is a researcher with an in-depth knowledge of coral reef environments, especially in the Maldives, where he has run research activities for almost seven years. His research topics are mainly focused on Remote Sensing mapping and monitoring techniques of threatened coastal marine environments. Along these years of research, he developed skills in piloting drones and collecting aerial data on coral reef environments.
The Marine Research and High Education Center (#MaRHECenter) has carried out, since 2009, research and educational activities in the fields of environmental science and marine biology, tourism science and human geography. Located in Faafu Atoll in Maldives, the centre aims to educate as to how to protect this fragile environment and its biodiversity, as well as to use and manage its resources responsibly.
About Oceans Unmanned
Oceans Unmanned is providing long-endurance, water-landing fixed-wing drones that can support the maturation of aerial technologies in a variety of marine conservation efforts in the Maldives. OU has years of experience leading ocean and coastal marine research projects utilizing unmanned platforms and remote sensing that will be directly applicable to ongoing efforts in the Maldives. The goal of the broad-based partnership is to leverage experts in aerial systems, remote sensing, and environmental monitoring to primarily classify and understand the spatial and temporal aggregation and deposition of plastics around the country.
For more information on The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and reservations inquiries, please visit ritzcarlton.com/Maldives.