News, Sustainable Tourism|

Male’, Maldives, 23rd May 2022 – The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands proudly announces the launch of its first guest-collaborative drone project in conservation technology science. In a unique partnership with British PhD researcher Melissa Schiele, the resort will play an integral role in a government approved research programme to develop drone methods to search for, and quantify, plastics in the Indian Ocean and on the shorelines of the Maldives. This unique project allows the resort’s guests to engage in real science and exploration whilst supporting a major research data collection project with global influence.

This new initiative works collaboratively with leading scientists and marine technology to conserve some of the world’s most fragile natural environments. As the first ‘resort biologist’ in the Maldives, PhD researcher at Loughborough University and the London Zoological Society, Melissa Schiele has built a team of resident naturalists, including scientists and commercially trained drone pilots, to create a unique community of conservation experts from across the globe. The progressive research community incorporates PhD researcher Melissa Schiele; Dr Luca Fallati, MaRHE, the Marine Research and High Education Centre; and Oceans Unmanned. 

The team will use drones donated by leading marine technologists, Oceans Unmanned, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and hydrophones, to collect images and analyse data to feed into ground-breaking plastics detection and wildlife conservation projects. Together, this community supports a major data collection project to monitor ocean pollution of plastics, its impact on sea turtles, marine life and biodiversity in the Indian Ocean, and will, for the first time allow guests to engage in the science, exploration and hands-on process of data collection using advanced conservation technology.

Guests at the resort will have the opportunity to join the newly formed research team in their ground-breaking work. The journey will start at the resort, where with professional drone simulation training software, guests can explore the latest scientific research with naturalists, while testing their piloting skills. Stepping out in to the field, guests will navigate the ocean through drones piloted by the team, in search for ghost nets while experiencing the precious wildlife, endemic to the Maldives’ fragile coral reefs.

To support the environmental research and wildlife protection programme, the resort and community is set to create a meaningful and inclusive legacy for the Maldivian community. The research initiative will offer a unique platform for local children to visit and learn of the emerging importance of marine technology, including drones and hydrophones in monitoring marine life. Key fieldwork will be held at MaRHE, one of the project’s academic partner facilities in the neighbouring Faafu Atoll, and who host world-class university-level education for local and international marine biology and environmental science students. Maldivian marine scientists will be integral to the ongoing evolution of the programme.

The methods developed at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and MaRHE are set to be introduced around the country, to create a network of dedicated drone operators. A sustained plastics monitoring programme will build a baseline for the dynamics of pollution, with the aim to support policy and legislation change at local, national and international levels.

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