The Queensland Government is set to enlist the help of unmanned, robotic drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to catch illegal fishing boats operating around the coast.
The plan sees the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) monitoring the Queensland coastline and outlying waters for illegal trawling operations. The state government said that the unmanned aircraft were chosen for their stealth and longevity in the air.
"With monitoring illegal fishing and trawling, UAS have a big advantage because they can stay in the sky for much longer and at altitudes that ensure low noise and an element of stealth, meaning their ability to catch people doing illegal fishing and trawling is much greater," said Queensland Tourism, Manufacturing and Small Business Minister, Jan Jarratt, of the plan.
"The unmanned aircraft will need to be able to demonstrate an ability to detect and record details sufficient to warrant police charges being laid and, ultimately, successful convictions," she added.
The aircraft would operate at 2000 to 3000 feet on a 12-hour shift, monitoring the coastline day and night.
The deployment would also see the aircraft used to track the infestation of harmful ocean life to demonstrate the various applications of the project.
"For example, the aircraft could be trialled to monitor and detect the spread of the extremely invasive Siam weed, which was first detected in North Queensland in 1994," the minister said, adding that the weeds can spread more than 80,000 seeds per year.
Jarratt said that the aircraft could be in the air as early as January 2012, and have been selected to minimise human exposure to "dull, dirty and dangerous missions" in the skies above Queensland.
Local Boeing subsidiary, Insitu Pacific, was chosen to assist in the roll-out of the UAS for the Queensland Government. Andrew Duggan, managing director of Insitu Pacific, said that he and the company are excited to be involved in commercialising the UAS for civilian rather than military use.
The CSIRO recently hosted a global UAV challenge in Queensland that saw teams build an autonomous drone and use it to not only locate a mannequin "stranded" in the desert, but also air-drop a bottle of water to it.