A smart drone to fight against illegal fishing

Atlanspace won the innovation award from the African Entrepreneurship Award, launched by the BMCE, for its intelligent drone project. State-of-the-art technology, developed to stop perpetrators of environmental crimes.

The idea was born in December 2015 from a discussion between two longtime friends, Younès Moumen and Badr Idrissi. The first is a computer engineer, founder of start-ups specializing in artificial intelligence.

The second was director of sales at several multinationals. Different but complementary profiles, which simultaneously recognize the “urgency to act for the planet”, after the announcement of the award of the COP22 in Marrakech.

Seeking help, they come across a report from the Overseas Development Institute on illegal fishing in Africa. A “scourge” that would represent, according to the document, an annual shortfall for the continent of $ 1.4 billion – up to 2% of GDP for economies like those in Senegal. The duo decides to use their skills to try to stop the phenomenon.

In March 2016, he created Smarter Life Innovations – the company that will later become Atlanspace. The goal is not to make drones, but to develop software that will allow them to identify, in a completely autonomous way, the boats in violation.

In concrete terms, this means that an unmanned aircraft will be able to process the photos it takes, flying at an altitude of 500 to 5,000 meters. Instead of transmitting the raw pictures to the authorities, the camera will only send them the data via a satellite message if suspicious behaviour is noticed.

“This innovation will change the way drones operate,” says Badr Idrissi. “Today, they are limited by the range of telecommunication equipment that is about 90 kilometres and tomorrow they will not have this restriction, and will be able to go up to 800 kilometres”.

Remote-controlled vehicles will have a complementary role to satellites, like the one launched in early November by Morocco. Where the resolution of the satellite Mohammed VI-A (70cm / pixel) will only locate a ship, the accuracy of the drone will discern whether it is a trawler, a sailboat or an oil tanker. he has the right nets, etc.

NGOs based in Seychelles and Tanzania have already requested demonstrations in the coming weeks. Moroccan institutions have also shown interest, particularly in agriculture and forest protection. New applications that will only require a “technical adaptation of the algorithm”, ensures Badr Idrissi. Asked about the decree of 23 February 2015, accused of restricting the importation and use of autonomous air vehicles in the Kingdom, he said “it is perfectly normal that the State seeks to protect its citizens, and that there are have a procedure and laws to respect “.

In addition to its two instigators, Atlanspace now employs three PhD students. The company has also partnered with the international universities of Rabat and Mohammed I of Oujda, to improve respectively aeronautics and artificial intelligence.

Funded by Microsoft ($ 120,000), the Moroccan government and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization ($ 15,000), the company will receive an additional $ 50,000 through the African Entrepreneurship Award. “We have a lot of projects in mind, and it’s going to help us move them forward,” Badr Idrissi enthuses.

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