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 the first. The high initial cost ruled them out together with unfavorable vessel detection ability.
The Republic of Palau next tested the Sea Dragon system. A military grade combination of radar and gyro stabilized cameras. A twin engine Cessna variant is fitted with the surveillance equipment and used as a complete package with a pilot and trained observer.
During the initial trial, Sea Dragon 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. It wasn’t a practical solution for long term surveillance despite it’s initial success. It has however found use in other parts of FSM.
A simple, cheap and reliable 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. A twin engine Beechcraft modified Queen Air was chosen due to it’s reliability and long range of over 1000 Nautical miles.
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.
Even in Palau Plastic Pollution is becoming a serious problem. Whilst filming on location in one of Palau’s most beautiful locations of Kayangel the other day it was horribly apparent what a enormous issue it is. I put together this short film on what we found there.
We are killing our environment
Human activities are impacting everywhere on the small fragile planet, from the deepest oceans to the upper atmosphere. By far the biggest cause is the sheer number of people. Population control must be tackled immediately if we are to have any hope of bringing other environmental problems to acceptable or sustainable levels.
Our species consumes so many natural resources and creates so much pollution, it is literally killing it’s own environment. Just like anything that lives beyond it’s environments ability to support it, we will die off as the environment we need to survive fails.
Our oceans are filling with plastic. So many millions of single use bottles. How many can you see in the above image alone?
Watch the film above and listen to the admittedly windy dialog, but the message here is that we should be aiming to cut down on those single use plastic containers. Bottled water or drinks are one of the biggest contributors. Please think about purchasing reusable bottles and taking them with you. If you think that the above photo is just a couple of square meters of one beach the unbelievable scale of this problem might begin to dawn on you. Please make the effort to cut down on your plastic use. This issue is not going away.
A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post on her efforts to cut down on plastic usage, read it here.
Check out this link for positive thinking companies in Indo who specialize on lowering their impact on the World.
Many thousands of migratory shorebirds stop-over in Palau to rest and feed, one of them is the Whimbrel. In Palau it is called the Okak. The Okak has a larger much rarer cousin, the Far Eastern Curlew. It is so rare only around 5 birds get spotted here each year. This is the largest species of Curlew and is also know in Palauan tradition as the money bird. The story goes that it visits these shores and leaves gifts behind. It swallowed traditional money and flew to parts of Palau. If it was left to settle it would eventually defecate out the money and the residents would become rich.
You can find the symbols all over traditional meeting housings and Government buildings.
Camera gear for filming birds
Today I utilized my new canon 70-300 lens coupled to a 2x teleconverter. I managed to get some nice stable footage of this Whimbrel even at full zoom. The Image stabilization of the canon lens is amazing!
Wildlife conservation in Palau
The NGO spearheading this initiative to raise awareness about the plight of these birds is the Palau Conservation Society. This is far from the only work they do. See their website for more information and how to help them achieve their goals.
Palau Conservation Society commissioned me to make a film highlighting the status of Palau’s migratory shorebirds. For about 9 months we collaborated with local bird and conservation experts to create this film which is being shown across Palau:
If you would like to find out more about filming in Palau consider reading this article
I’ve been involved in Media Production in Palau in various guises for 10 years now, initially as an underwater cameraman with a little bit of topside work thrown in, then diversifying into Time-lapse, run n’ gun, aerials (drone and aircraft), interviews etc.
Palau has changed a lot in those 10 years and this has made me change with it.
Here are 10 things (actually 11) I’ve learned about Media Production in that time:
So many cameras
Now more than ever people have cameras, as a dedicated cameraman I’m being squeezed by the ready availability of cameras. Everyone over the age of 5 seems to have one (gross over generalization, I know). So now more than ever I have to be inventive with my imaging, flexibility and the old cliche of thinking outside the box are more important than ever before. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, think about a sequence or image you want to acquire, no matter how crazy or impossible it first appears to be, then work out how to do it. Dare to be different.
Palau’s northernmost island Ngurangel and it’s southernmost Helen Reef are separated by little over 400 miles of island peppered ocean but are remarkably similar. Both are low lying sandy features surrounded by huge atoll reefs which makes them a haven for both marine and bird life. Their isolation is what makes them so special.
Helen reef is a long thin spit of land, sparsely vegetated. It has a resident population of 4 rangers, 3 dogs and about 5000 sea birds. The rangers have their own accommodations and keep an eye out for illegal fishing activities. It lies closer to Indonesia than it does Palau’s capital Koror.