UK-based product development firm, Cambridge Consultants, is working with the conservation organisation, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), to trial satellite-enabled cameras in the Antarctic, which will help monitor penguins’ arrival and departure when scientists are not around.
A formal announcement of the trial will be made on Friday 25 April, World Penguin Day, a day which aims to raise awareness of and celebrate species in even the most remote areas of the world.
The project stems from the growing concern that climate change is having a detrimental impact on the penguin population and their habitats. As a result, the satellite-enabled cameras, developed by Cambridge Consultants, are designed to work in the most remote areas on earth and will help monitor how penguins and their habitats are changing over a period of time.
To trial this, the first prototype has been deployed with the Penguin Lifelines project (www.penguinlifelines.org); a collaboration between Oxford University and ZSL. This camera has now been left in Antarctica over the Southern winter, where it is still sending back pictures.
Currently, most penguin research relies on visiting remote colonies every year, which means that a small proportion of colonies are monitored. The ability to monitor penguins through satellite CCTV would be revolutionary.
The new satellite cameras harness the capabilities of a range of technologies – including the versatile Raspberry Pi micro-computer. They can run on a single long-life battery, and use infra-red LED flash lighting to work at night as well as during the day.
The captured images are sent back over the Iridium satellite communication network – 66 low earth orbit satellites that represent the only commercial satellite system with full coverage of the globe.
If the trials are successful, the cameras will be deployed in carefully selected areas across the Antarctic ahead of breeding season in the latter half of the year, and will be able to take up to eight high-resolution images a day from two cameras, enabling Tom Hart, a penguinologist at Oxford University, to make significant breakthroughs in his day-to-day research of the species.
See also: Cambridge Consultant satellite cameras saving endangered species