Melissa Schiele

University of Birmingham


Low-cost fixed-wing water-landing UAV operations and systems for marine ecological, plastics and illegal fishery surveillance


  • Dr Paul Lepper
  • Dr Ella-Mae Hubbard
  • Dr Marcus Rowcliffe
  • Dr Tom Letessier

PhD Summary

I develop and pilot low-cost, water-landing fixed-wing UAVs for BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). Marine and freshwater applications include surveillance and ecological monitoring, and I streamline and develop operational methods. Specific applications currently include IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing surveillance, fisheries spatial analysis, plastics detection and marine wildlife monitoring. I am also exploring operations at sea and technology acceptance of these sorts of systems in both developing and developed nations, in decision makers and marine protected areas.

Previous activity

I worked as an international project manager for over 10 years, in business, science and heritage-based roles. My most recent contract was with the Institute of Zoology (London Zoo) as a research associate and commercial drone pilot.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I wanted to pursue my passion in marine science and applied conservation technology. I was looking for a challenge and I wanted to explore my research interests and had many plans for starting big projects to tackle marine issues, including illegal fisheries. Those projects are now starting to take shape.

Why did you choose CENTA?

The CENTA studentship allowed me to be fully funded with a fantastic network of other top researchers. However, it also meant I was part of the NERC cohort which again, expanded my network further.

Future plans

Being based in engineering at Loughborough has opened my eyes and elevated me from an ecologist that used technology, to an engineer in the conservation technology space, designing systems for specific user cases. I want to expand our lab and build a strong programme of conservation technology and marine sustainability at the university and who knows, perhaps start an MSc in marine conservation technology! I have a large portfolio of both large and small international organisations who would like us to work with them, so I’d like to dedicate more time to that, too.