Smart Safe Keeping: Blending Artificial Intelligence with Sea Turtle Conservation

by Stephen Taglieri, KwF Conservation Research Intern

More and more, drones are becoming a normal part of our future. “When we first introduced the integration of computer science with aerospace engineering to create self aware drones it seemed like an alien concept, but over the last couple of years A.I. has advanced exponentially while drone development has expanded to many conservation studies,” says Princess Aliyah Pandolfi, Executive Director of Kashmir World Foundation (KwF).

These flying robots aid workers with daily tasks, and innovation keeps pushing technology in a direction to further help. However, drones don’t always have to help people, drones can also be used to safeguard wildlife. Conservationists are chronically underfunded and understaffed, so the use of drones can give much-needed assistance. This is especially true with sea turtle conservation.

Kashmir World Foundation (KwF) was able to introduce Pronatura, Mexico’s largest environmental conservation group, to the perks of using drones to protect turtles.

Pandolfi created the Fly for Conservation workshop to educate researchers and biologists on the value of custom drones embedded with A.I. on the Edge. In 2018, Marista University of Mérida hosted the Fly for Conservation workshop with KwF staff teaching environmentalists on the Yucatan Peninsula how to build, program, and operate drones to survey sea turtles efficiently.

With aerial visuals, the team released 32 sea turtle hatchlings at a beach in Celestun, Mexico and ended the successful evening with a group picture to document their victory. Sea turtle conservation is usually time-consuming and energy-intensive; drones, and the innovative ways to use them, take pressure off experts so they can spend more time-saving species.

Dr. Melania López-Castro is a conse