Portfolio Minister, Derrick Kellier, said that with the one-year drone pilot project now complete: “Our next step is to work closely with the Ministry of National Security, with a view to identifying and sourcing drones with longer endurance, so as to increase our reach as well as our law enforcement presence within the island’s maritime jurisdiction.”
The drones are also expected to be pivotal in search and rescue missions for fisherfolk stranded or reported missing at sea. Persons will be trained in their operation.
Mr Kellier said use of the drones is expected to significantly reduce “severe gaps” in Jamaica’s fisheries trade.
The country recorded net seafood imports totalling $135 million in 2014, compared to exports of $35 million in 2013, according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report.
Mr Kellier attributed this to continued “drastic and rapid” decline in Jamaica’s marine fishery resources, due to poaching and environmental degradation, leading to an increased need for imports to meet fish demand.
Chief Executive Officer of the Fisheries Division, Lieutenant Commander Paul Wright, who also spoke at the briefing, advised that persons to be trained in the operation of the drones will initially be selected from the Division.
He said emphasis will be placed on ensuring that the trainees operate “seamlessly” in collaboration with the relevant law enforcement agencies.
The one-year test project was undertaken by a task force comprising representatives from the Fisheries Division, Ministry of National Security, Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (Marine Division), Jamaica UAV, and Rainforest Seafoods Limited.
Mr Kellier said that the final of five scheduled test flights was completed at Pedro Cays in April 2015.
“I wish to… thank all our partners in this project for having joined with the Ministry to complete the initial phase. This has been a true demonstration of collaboration, not only among the state agencies, but, indeed, with our private sector partners,” Mr Kellier said.
During the media briefing, the two drones used in the pilot phase were officially handed over to Minister Kellier by Jamaica Robotics and Avionics Design Group, and Jamaica Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
A cheque in the sum of $575,000 was also presented by Rainforest Seafoods to assist in funding further development of the initiative, which Mr Kellier advised, will also be financed by the Fisheries Development and Management Fund.