Are drones the next weapon against poaching?
In 2013 South Africa lost more than 1000 rhinos to illegal hunting. In other countries such as Vietnam, rhinos are already extinct. Now, a US company hopes to launch unmanned drones equipped with cameras to frighten off poachers.
Airware is a company that develops a new autopilot system for commercial drones. Those drones can be used for many different purposes, the company says. Such as inspections, search and rescue operations – or to watch out for poachers across large areas of African safari parks.
The company has conducted a field test in Kenya with drones designed to protect rhinos. First results suggest they may be a promising tool for wildlife conservation.
But why in Kenia? The country lost 50 rhinos in 2013. The team went to Ol Pejeta which is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. Set up to act as a deterrent and for surveillance the drone was sending real-time video and thermal imaging feeds to the rangers on the ground. The drone navigates autonomously, along a prescribed flight route and requires just one person to operate, who can also instruct the aircraft what to look out for with the on-board camera.
The test prototype “surpassed all our expectations,” the team said afterwards. Just maybe tech innovations like these could help to preserve threatened species.
And it is an effort, that is obviously more realistic than a concept by artist Robert Chew. He thought about robots that take the forms of (poached) animals to blend in with the wildlife and help capture poachers.
DateJanuary 17, 2014