Aerial surveillance and the Palau Marine Sanctuary

Aerial surveillance palau
Aerial surveillance Palau

Aerial Surveillance over the Palau marine sanctuary was initially proposed in 2013. A series of tests were conducted with various technologies. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were first. The high initial cost ruled them out.

UAV Palau
The UAV could remain aloft for many hours and cover a huge distance, required 2 operators to fly it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sea Dragon system was next to be tested by Palau. A military grade combination of radar and gyro stabilized cameras.  A twin engine Cessna variant is fitted with the tech and used as a complete package.

Sea Dragon aerial surveillance aircraft
The sea dragon aerial surveillance aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During it’s initial trial it scored a huge success by finding and documenting fishing vessels transshipping. This is illegal in Palau. It demonstrated the need to continue patrols far off-shore.

The system however had issues and wasn’t a practical solution for long term surveillance despite it’s successes initially.

A simpler, cheaper solution had to be found.

This is where  Pacific Mission Aviation stepped into the ring. Part of their work is providing medevac solutions to the outer atolls of Yap and FSM. For this they need an aircraft with a greater range than a standard single engined Cessna. The aircraft of choice is the twin engine Beechcraft modified Queen Air. This specific type of aircraft has a range of over 1000 Nautical miles.

Aerial Surveillance
One of the Pacific Mission Aviation Queen Airs outside their hangar in Yap, FSM.

The below film documents actual missions that took place during November of 2017.

In addition you can also check out an earlier behind the scenes post written during the development of this project .

Please check out the website for Pacific Mission Aviation here

The future of surveillance

The conclusion from all these tests is that simplicity is fundamental.

However, as we continuously approach our time horizon, developments occur. I’m talking about the recent U.S plan to install military radar stations in a variety of locations in Palau. One of these installations will be in the SW islands. They aim to give the U.S a better idea about military ship movements in the area. The US and Palau also propose to use this to locate and identify fishing vessels. With this level of tech in place it will probably become impossible to enter Palau’s EEZ undetected. We certainly have an interesting few years ahead of us.

Keep checking back as we continue to document the surveillance efforts over the National Marine Sanctuary.

Cheers

Richard