If any recent news story illustrates the potential of unmanned technology to up-end things, it's this one. Australia has approved
the use of unmanned aircraft over Antarctic waters by conservation group Sea Shepherd in support of its anti-whaling campaign Operation Divine Wind
In late December, Sea Shepherd announced it had intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet using an unmanned aircraft launched from its ship the Steve Irwin
to locate and photograph the factory ship Nisshin Maru
(below). Although Japanese security ships moved in to shield the Nisshin Maru
and allow it to escape, Sea Shepherd says it was able to use drones launched from the Irwin
and another vessel, the Bob Barker
, to track the factory ship.
Photos: Sea Shepherd
The Japanese fleet was intercepted off the coast of Australia while still 1,000 miles north of the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary, says Sea Shepherd. The group continued using the hand-launched UAVs to track the Nisshin Maru
as the pursuit moved south into Australian Antarctic territorial waters. Initially Australia banned the UAVs until an environmental assessment required by the Antractic Treaty had been completed, but it has now approved their use.
Sea Shepherd claims its use of UAVs has forced the Japanese whaling fleet to keep moving and as of January 3 says there is no evidence
the three harpoon/security ships accompanying the Nisshin Maru
have had time to kill any whales.