They’re not military drones. And the fleet isn’t a state navy. Sea Shepherd, the maritime environmental organization has announced that it is now using commercial drones. On Christmas Day, they launched a drone from on of their ships, the Steve Irwin, and found the Japanese whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd is one of many non-governmental organizations and non-state actors operating on the global maritime commons. Understanding this organization’s operations, logistics, and tactics is one way of understanding how non-state actors might behave in the future. The use of commercial drones to augment their surveillance capabilities (currently mostly with the use of a helicopter) is yet another demonstration of Sea Shepherd’s innovative methods to improve their ability to engage with the Japanese whaling fleet.

Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century (Routledge, February 2012). He is a frequent contributor to Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval History and currently serves on the USNI Editorial Board. The views expressed are his own and not those of the Department of the Navy.





Posted by LCDR Claude Berube, USNR in Aviation, Maritime Security, Navy


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  • Eagle1

    Those unmanned aircraft are not the only drones in the Sea Shepard ships . . .

  • Paul P

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/episodes/s13e11-whale-whores

    Ok, so I am in favor of protecting whales but I still don’t get what they actually do when they intercept a whaling ship other than being annoying.

  • Claude Berube

    Paul P: their stated goal is to force the whaling ships to return to Japan or at least minimize the number of whale kills by interrupting whaling operations.
    Also by filming it, they are bringing attention to their cause which generates financial contributions and possibly political support to reduce whaling.

  • Eagle1

    Watching their show can also provide valuable lessons in safety at sea.

    Mostly negative lessons, to be sure, but there is a sort of “watching a train wreck” fascination to it.

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