Icoteq Ltd a specialist wireless design consultancy has successfully developed a new generation of satellite tracking equipment aimed at sea turtles for the Arribada Initiative, an organisation whose goal is to provide affordable, open conservation technology for all.
Trialled on 10 Green Sea Turtles in partnership with Exeter University and the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) off the coast of Cyprus, the first location data from the devices has now come back demonstrating that low cost, high performance tracking is now possible using state of the art technology.
Icoteq’s design is based around off-the-shelf components including a ublox satellite receiver and further optimised for fast location locking and low power consumption in a marine environment. The device integrates a 9-channel motion sensor, temperature and pressure monitoring, a Bluetooth 5.0 transceiver for wireless configuration and data download, and supports additional modules for Satellite Communication and Long Range Radio (LoRa) for remote data download.
Tracking marine animals is extremely challenging, primarily since the animals do not spend long on the surface of the water making reception of satellite navigation signals impossible for much of the time. Combined with long deployments where battery life is critical and the requirement for minimal size and weight is premium, conservationists have historically found themselves tied to expensive tracking equipment limiting the number of animals they can monitor, restricting their ability to gather substantial data on endangered species.
The electronics are housed in a custom enclosure developed for this project by IRNAS in Slovenia. As well as the extreme pressures that the device may be subjected to when the animal is diving at depth it must also withstand the impacts that occur with both rocks and other turtles.
Alasdair Davies, founder of the Arribada Initiative responded on Twitter to the first results from Cyprus “We were able to GPS track 10 green sea turtles at very low cost thanks to @icoteq who engineered and optimized the board for fast location locking. Fantastic work.”
Icoteq have provided 20 more tracking devices to support the Arribada Initiative for the next deployment on Poilao Island off the coast of Guinea-Bissau to support Rita Patricio’s field work in partnership with IBAP and the MAVA Foundation.
The ultimate outcome for this tracking technology will be a release to the community with open source hardware and software enabling the monitoring of marine animals on a vast scale. This will be crucial in understanding their behaviour and the challenges they face in their environments so that steps can be taken to preserve them.
Icoteq Ltd www.icoteq.com
Arribada Initiative blog.arribada.org
Exeter University www.exeter.ac.uk/research/marine