Melissa Schiele


  • Doctoral Researcher


Melissa is a researcher and senior international technical project manager with 10+ years experience. Her main fields are marine conservation, ecology, fisheries, sustainability, UAV engineering/ops and development. Multidisciplinary, innovation-led PhD researcher. she develops and pilots low-cost, water-landing fixed-wing UAVs for BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). Marine and freshwater applications include surveillance and ecological monitoring, and she streamlines and develops operational methods. Specific applications currently include IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing surveillance, fisheries spatial analysis, plastics detection and marine wildlife monitoring. Melissa has set up an international conservation technology project, the first of it's kind, in the Maldives in 2021. Previously at Imperial College London, now at Loughborough University and an honorary researcher at Exeter University. Melissa has been a researcher at the Institute of Zoology in London's ZSL since 2018.

Governance in fisheries and marine conservation in marine protected areas and lakes, in developing or remote tropical nations, often have low success, leading to ecosystem degradation, increased pressures on wildlife and effects on livelihoods. Causes usually include lack of capitol and poor infrastructure to match the scale of the areas, which can translate to ineffective enforcement and superficial conservation management. The ongoing development and trials of her water-landing fixed-wing drone for use by non-specialists focuses on technical robustness in a tropical setting, longevity of components and flight strategy/camera type to optimise data gathering ability. The purpose of this UAV is as a multi-use low-cost surveillance tool for illegal fishing, plastics detection, and wildlife monitoring. Melissa is developing a large 1.7m wingspan version and a smaller 1.3m wingspan version, to reflect the varied UAV regulations and restrictions in her study sites. The UAV must travel beyond 10km range and she is exploring using a multi-rotor drone to raise antennas and extend the range. Currently, 10km is the industry standard range out at sea for drones using radio communications, due to the evaporation duct and radio horizon effects. Currently there is no method to predict or quantify UAV technology acceptance in developing country marine areas. She wants to develop a new conceptual model based on the technology acceptance model, specifically for the introduction of technology into marine conservation and associated management scenarios.