More commonly, aerial drones can be used by governments for spying on enemies. And now in Mexico, they're being used to keep an eye out for and protect unhatched sea turtles. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
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Off the warm waters of Oaxaca, Mexico has a new plan to protect the threatened Olive Ridley Turtle, deploying a pair of drones this week to keep watch on their eggs.
The small green sea turtles return to this stretch of coastline every year to hatch their eggs in the sand by the thousands.
But between predators and poachers, only two-tenths of one percent of these eggs survive.
They are hunted by birds, dogs and crabs or eaten by local residents.
Mexican environmental officials say their new eyes in the sky can spot people encroaching on the egg sanctuaries.
EDGAR FERRUSQUILLA, FEDERAL ATTORNEY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION:
From the air, it's easy to identify the paths. When someone walks, they leave a track and, when many people start to walk along that track, we start to see paths. So this equipment helps us identify who has that kind of access.
HECTOR HERNANDEZ, FEDERAL ATTORNEY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION:
As federal inspectors, we secure the eggs in a precautionary manner. Up to now, we've secured up to 9,000 turtle eggs, which we return to the beach.
Even though it's illegal to sell turtle meat and eggs in Mexico, that doesn't deter poachers from stealing eggs, even in broad daylight, and selling them for about a dollar apiece.
On this Oaxaca beach earlier this year, 80 percent of the unguarded eggs disappeared.
Officials hope this new effort using drones will keep more turtle eggs safe until they hatch.