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Anti-whaling activists use drones

world Updated: Jan 02, 2012 00:39 IST
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The drone is launched from the deck of Steve Irwin.

Environmental activists in the rough Antarctic seas have launched a new tool in the fight to stop a Japanese operation to kill hundreds of whales — remote-controlled drones.

Every morning for the past week, a battery-powered drone with a range of 300km has been launched from the MV Steve Irwin, which is attempting to disrupt the annual Japanese whale hunts in the waters off Antarctica. "We first found the Japanese fleet when they were 28 nautical miles away," said Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international marine wildlife protection group based in the United States.

Subsequent attempts by Japanese whaling ships to block the anti-whaling flotilla and allow the whale factory ship Nisshin Maru to escape were foiled by the activists, who repeatedly launched the drone, which uses GPS co-ordinates and provides both video and still images to track the ships.

"Our helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman, has been lobbying for this technology for the past two years and now that we have this 'eye in the sky' it makes it much harder for the whaling fleet to escape," said Watson in a telephone interview from the Steve Irwin.

Watson has 88 crew on three ships, two of which are equipped with drones.