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.