founded Pelago in 1996. He has been a computer systems engineer
for the last 17 years and in his spare time he enjoys fishing,
diving, sailing and generally anything to do with the sea.
The Project that made Pelago what it is today, 11 years on
My Name is David Brett, I started
Pelago UK purely by chance back in 1996. Being a Diving enthusiast
and ex merchant navy engineer I had always been interested in the
sea from an early age. As chance would have it I meet a chap who
worked for the Southampton Institute of Oceanography, during a
brief conversation I had with hm I happened to mention a project
I had been working on for several years, this project was a remote
controlled underwater fish trap which could be raised to the
surface by the touch of a button.
In 1989 I got married on an island in the
Indian ocean, a beautiful island called the Seychelles, I was very
much into diving at this stage in my life and spent some time with
the hotel diving instructor, over a few beers he was telling me
about the plight of the local fishermen, and how they were having
there livelihoods ripped from beneath there feet, a lot of the
island was devoted to the fishing industry, large fish were common
in 89 and frequently caught in the fishermen's traps, catches were
a common occurrence, these fish were shipped mainly to south Africa,
providing the local economy a good source of income.
Many of the locals were using the old tried
and tested fishing methods, fish traps and lobster pots, these
were baited and released into the sea connected to long lengths of
rope and a marker flag, the problem with this method of fishing, they are
visible to anyone wanting to steal there contents, and thatís
exactly what was happening during the twilight hours. Small gangs
of criminals would locate these flags and hoist the fish and lobster pots to the surface allowing them to steal the fish.
They would then release the pots back into the sea! Empty.
All lobster pots and fish traps are
traditionally lowered into the water using long ropes connected to
the surface with a large floating flag, this was to enable the
fisherman to find and retrieve there pots the following day and
remove the fish for market. Stealing these fish from the pots was
big business as grouper fish the size of dustbin lids were
commonly caught, and would command high prices.
After careful thought we came up with what we though was a great
idea to stop this from happening in the future, little did I know
this was going to be a project which took 5 years to complete.
We actually came up with the idea using
the knowledge we had gained from our many diving experiences. How to solve this major problem, I.E. how can
you hide these fish traps and lobster pots from the people whose
only intention is to locate and steal there contents.
The idea was simple, but putting it into
practice was another issue entirely,After some thought on the matter we decided the only way
was to sink these traps and raise them automatically without the
use or ropes, flags or other items that would be visible from the
We used the diving life jacket principle, by
opening a valve on a divers life jacket, this would inflate the
life jacket filling it with compressed air and making it buoyant,
raising the diver to the surface. If we could some how utilize this technique on the fish traps the problem would be solved, but
how do you energize a small compressed air cylinder 50 meters down
from the surface, for that matter how do you even locate your fish
The first part was relativity simple sink the
trap, which would be baited and weighted to help it sink to the
bottom and stop tidal drift. Once the trap was released into the
ocean, use the man overboard on your GPS system, this would give
the longitude and latitude for each trap deployed.
Now the tricky part! We needed to build a
sealed hollow tube around the top of each fish trap, make it watertight
and find a way to fill with air and release the water inside the
tubing to make it float.
We came up with the idea of using a
waterproof solenoid, battery operated, this would be energised
from a sophisticated electronics module opening the small
compressed air bottle (ABLJ) an idea in principle to the way
ballast tanks are blown on a submarine and fill the chambers with
air, gradually raising the fish trap to the surface.
For this to work we had to find a way to
transmit a pulse width encrypted signal through the water to the
unit, I wont bore you here, but we used the same frequency that
depth sounders use 200khz for shallow waters of less than 200 meters, it took a long time to sort the electronics, as we were
getting harmonics and many other signals being transmitted through
the water from many craft machinery and animals, we eventually
cracked it and got it all to work, sadly this unit is still
sitting on our shelf and was never commercialized for use, but
thatís how Pelago was born
Since then we have gone on to develop many bespoke data
logging systems and data acquisitions systems ranging from
oceanographic to Industrial intelligent data acquisition systems.