Three drones were launched from Plymouth on Tuesday to track fish and gather data on oceans around UK

Three marine robots

have been launched to track fish populations and gather ocean data in and

around new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The drones, which were

launched in Plymouth on Tuesday by scientists from the Marine Biological

Association and engineers from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), aim to

learn how fish use MPAs on a day-to-day basis.

Using acoustic

‘pingers’, fish species such as plaice and sole will be tracked at sea by the

robots. Assisting them in their data collection will be fixed seabed listening


The three autonomous

vehicles, AutoNaut, C-Enduro and the SV3 Waveglider will all be carrying a

range of sensors to collect additional data on the physical properties of the

ocean, such as water temperature and salinity.

Onboard GoPro cameras

will also capture valuable photographs and video footage of seabirds and other

marine wildlife. 

Project leader Dr

Stephen Cotterell, said: “This technology will give us a new dimension in our

understanding of fish movements, residency and migrations in and around the

marine protected areas off Plymouth.

“Understanding how

fish use MPAs will be vital in understanding the value of these management

tools to conserve fish stocks.

“One of the aims of

the EU Marine Strategy Framework is achieving sustainable fisheries, through

and ecologically coherent network of MPAs. We just don’t know enough yet about

how effective MPAs are for mobile species. With this work we aim to get

somewhere closer.”

This week’s launch is

the second phase of the pioneering project, which previously saw five marine

robots travel hundreds of kilometres off the Isles of Scilly to collect data

about oceans.

Head of the NOC’s

Marine Autonomous Robotics Systems group Dr Maaten Furlong, said: “This second

phase builds on the success of phase one and allows us to test the vehicle

fleer in a coastal waters.

“Using autonomous

surface vehicles in combination with fixed seabed assets significantly enhances

the scientific value of the system.”

The two-phase project is

the largest deployment of marine autonomous systems ever seen in the UK and

will provide important information about the shelf seas, marine life and the scope

for autonomous vehicles in future research projects.

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Image credits: National Oceanography Centre & Marine Biological