Badr Idrissi from Morocco is the co-founder and CEO of ATLAN Space. This is a technology startup that uses AI and drones to crack down on illegal fishing and protect African natural resources. The 37 years old man said that he discussed with Younes Moumen, co-founder of ATLAN Space about the poor track record in Africa on deforestation, poaching, and illegal fishing. He added that they had to get deeper into statistics and the outcome was not what they expected.
For instance, they found out that Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia, Senegal, and Mauritania lose around $2.3 billion to illegal fishing annually. They extracted this from a report by frontier in marine science. The two worked hard to get a solution to the whole problem. Having worked as a Microsoft account executive and in possession of a degree in telecommunication engineering, Idrissi and his partner developed a software tech that arms unmanned aerial vehicles commonly referred to as drones. Idrissi explained that the drones use AI to decide on their next move. They are feed with information about the weather, illegal fishing hotspots and protected marine areas. Furthermore, they are programmed to tell every contest.
For instance, in case a fishing boat is detected, the drone will check on its behavior. This is based on whether it is in a protected marine park, its operations and whether there is a fleet and much more to tell if the activities are illegal. It will then use the context to decide to report the situation or not. ATLAN Space’s technology increases the drones’ operational range more than compared to other drones that are in a position to cover a radius of around 70 kilometers. It also gives them a chance to keep an eye on a larger marine area without any disturbance by human beings. A single drone is in a position to cover 10,000 square kilometers depending with the number of hotspots that need to be monitored.
Idrissi said that in case the drone if 95% sure that the operation is illegal it will send information to the relevant local authorities. It gives them the information about the occurrence time, the GPS coordinates, the location and any other important information that will help them decide on the action to be taken. The ability of the technology lies in its ability to work on its own over a long distance without the need for human intervention. The drones are in a position to cover large areas and make decisions. For instance, two drones can communicate and decide to go their way and monitor two different boats. However, Idrissi does not aim to replace humans fully. He said that their technology is there mainly to help people to do their jobs effectively.
ATLAN Space won a national geographic to help it fund partnership of FishGuard pilot. This will assist in deploying the drones for the first time to help tackle illegal fishing in the Republic of Seychelles. The partnership is a unique one that also includes Trygg mat tracking analytical non-profit based in Norway and grid-Arendal to offer technological solutions to help fight illegal fishing. According to Idrissi, the system costs half of what is already available in the market commercially. This makes it a highly cost-effective way of solving illegal activities more so in emerging economies. He added that the cost of deploying FishGurd solutions relies on many factors and it is specific to every project. Apart from technological factors, it includes capacity building for a sustainable ocean resources management strategy.
According to him, it is more than just detecting illegal activities. He said that it is possible to build marine protection capacity, understand patterns and trends to see a larger percentage of what is going on at sea. The founders are planning to expand the model to solve other environmental challenges such as illegal mining and deforestation in the future after deploying it solutions in Seychelles. Idrissi said that there are still many challenges affecting African innovators and entrepreneurs. He said that people focus on educating the youths on how to become an employee who does not allow individuals to be creative which is risky. According to Mohamed Atani, an environmental regional information officer for Africa, supporting young African entrepreneurs is vital for sustainable development. It is also important in finding more innovative solutions like FishGuard in the coming days.