[squeak-dev] Autonomous Shark-Monitoring Drone

David T. Lewis lewis at mail.msen.com
Thu Oct 8 01:58:51 UTC 2015

Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile thing to do. I'm not sure how
much I can contribute, but if it turns out that there is a need for any
VM plugins and/or OSProcess glue to make the thing work, I will happily
volunteer for that.

I don't mind buying some hardware (Rasperry Pi?) to work with, although
that rubber shark may be a bit beyond my budget.

Seriously, this is a good idea and it would be a lot of fun if we could
make it work.


On Wed, Oct 07, 2015 at 08:54:55AM -0700, Eliot Miranda wrote:
> Dear Friends and Colleagues,
>     as you may know, Sharks, as apex predators, are vital to maintaining
> healthy marine ecosystems, and at the same time, their populations are
> plummeting due to human actions.  It is estimated for example that the
> population of pelagic oceanic white tip sharks is reducing by 17% per year
> [1] and I've heard (can't find a reference) that populations in the eastern
> indian/western pacific are at 1% of normal levels.  Such reductions in
> populations create "trophic cascades" that produce wide-ranging changes in
> populations of different species all the way down the food chain [2].  And
> the marine ecosystem is a key source of human nutrition; it comprises
> between 13% and 17% of global human protein intake [3].
>   As you may also know, there is currently a shark attack crisis in New
> South Wales [4].  While most people in the region oppose killing sharks in
> response to the crisis, existing solutions, netting and culling reduce
> those same threatened populations of sharks upon which the sustainability
> of marine food supply d ecosystems depend [5], and are arguably ineffective
> [6].  Apparently the most successful approach at avoiding attacks is the
> use of human spotters, as used in Cape Town, where people in tall towers
> scan the sea close to shore [6].
>   But please watch this Youtube video
> <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2U3gjwJfS4> [7] from Pismo Beach,
> California.  The shark is spotted at about 1:20 into the video.  This
> drone, a phantom 3, is sending live video back to the operators, who are
> using remote control.  What we can see from this video is that the point of
> view of drones is far superior to that of spotters.
>   My first thought is that autonomous drones could provide a cheap and
> scalable solution to patrolling beaches to prevent shark attacks.  I expect
> that processors like the Pi 2 have easily enough processing power to both
> plan and execute search patterns along beaches, and perform the image
> recognition necessary to reliably detect potentially dangerous sharks.  A
> drone might also be able autonomously to visit surfers and swimmers near to
> the shark and warn them, either by some signal such as flashing red LEDs or
> an audible message (language issues notwithstanding).  The drone would have
> to be able to identify swimmers and surfers in the water (not easy; sharks
> confuse seals and surfers all the time), but computing an optimal route to
> visit suspected swimmers should be relatively easy :-).
>   I imagine that sooner or later it will be possible to construct cheap
> rugged solar powered docking/charging shelters that drones could depart
> from and return to, to charge and shelter from the elements after patrols.
> Satellite communications could provide status reports for maintenance.
>   My second thought is that as a community, we probably have all the
> necessary expertise to construct a working prototype that at least
> demonstrates feasibility.  Such a prototype would have to be able to fly
> above the ocean along a beach under its own control for a useful period of
> time, at least  15 minutes, and demonstrate that it can identify a shark in
> the water (we could use a rubber shark
> <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dghbyBaQyI> for testing ;-) ).
> Our community includes people doing image recognition with the Pi, radio
> control experts, users of 3D printers, and some exceptional programmers.
> If a small, strong group could be formed with the relevant expertise we may
> be able to develop a prototype in a short enough time frame to be
> relevant.  Of course, availability of time is a big issue. I couldn't
> contribute more than a few hours a week.  But nothing ventured, nothing
> gained.  So I'm writing this message to the Squeak and Pharo communities,
> and bcc'ing a few friends I know that have relevant expertise to ask for
> two things; first, for good information on scoping out the project,
> possible technologies, power budgets, costs, what is available
> off-the-shelf (both in hardware and known algorithms) and what we would
> need to construct ourselves, and second, for volunteers.  Who among us are
> really excited by this project, have relevant expertise and are motivated
> to make a contribution?
> [1] www.sharkadvocates.org/cites_4sharks_owt_fact_sheet.pdf
> [2] http://www.globalshark.ca/pressmaterial/cascading/fig1_web.pdf
> [3] http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/3_foodconsumption/en/index5.html
> [4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-34398516
> [5]
> http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/29/shark-hit-australian-community-opposes-cull-research-finds
> [6] http://www.nonswsharkcull.net/latestnews/tag/shark_spotting/
> [7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2U3gjwJfS4
> crazier ideas:
> Infra red cameras are becoming cheap and easily available.  Species like
> Great White and Bull Shark have elevated metabolisms, effectively they are
> warm blooded, so these two facts may allow spotting at night.
> Sharks are extremely sensitive to electrical fields; maybe some kind of
> transmitter could be fitted to a drone, e.g. via a wire suspended in the
> water, that could generate a field that could direct the shark away from
> swimmers
> _,,,^..^,,,_
> best, Eliot


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