From Peter Milton to Tom Snitch on to ShadowView calling them conservation drones, UAVs or Air Rangers, they are all about protecting the last rhino.
Only recently with the increase in military equipped poachers ravaging entire elephant herds and rhino crashes have the experts turned to drones.
Protecting endangered wildlife species from the sky with UAVs (unmanned aircraft vehicles) has the potential not only to apprehend poachers in the act, but deter their very presence in game parks and reserves where drones operate. Drones can be effective at protecting wildlife from poachers.
We might ask, so why aren’t there more UAVs taking to the skies? Well there are many of them in operation already, with some still in the design or testing phases.
Peter Milton and his team at SPOTS designed and developed The Air Ranger. The Air Ranger is as close to a military type drone you can get Peter tells us. Being fully equipped to operate both day and night, night being of course optimum as most poachers work under cover of darkness, in particular the full moon.
Peter, whose work (thanks to you) NIKELA helps support, recently told us:
“We currently have 3 fully equipped Air Rangers…they can fly day and night. We would love to have around 10….and all the spares that go with that. We are also in the process of developing and testing a long range, petrol engine (as opposed to the electric on the rapid deployment Air Rangers we are currently flying) for deployment for long-distance surveillance requirements. We believe that both capabilities are needed…Air Ranger for rapid deployment shorter range pre/post event support and Air Marshall for long range surveillance and intelligence gathering.”
The more we learn about the use of the Air Ranger and other drones the more we realize how complex they need to be to do an effective job. Also, they aren’t cheap and thus their use is frequently limited due to funding. (Learn more about the Air Ranger and how you can help if you care to.)
Peter and his team work primarily in and around the beleaguered Kruger National Park where the majority of the rhino are targeted and poached. He also informed us that other African countries are requesting help from SPOTS and their Air Rangers.
ShadowView is a non-profit aerial surveillance and monitoring organization and their drones are being used in the UK “to gather evidence of hunts and individuals illegally hunting and committing other wildlife crimes such as hare coursing and badger baiting.
It has been illegal to use dogs to hunt most animals in England and Wales since 2005, and in Scotland since 2002”
We’re sure to hear more about this outfit and their UAVs as the interest, funding and strategies for their use take hold.
A daring experiment to use drone aircraft and intelligence tools against rhinoceros poachers in South Africa was previewed in a free public talk on April 11 2013 (video forth coming) at the university. This wildlife conservation experiment is one of many peaceful uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being explored by governments, universities and the commercial sector. And it occurs as the FAA is beginning development of a comprehensive plan for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace.
Tom Snitch, Ph.D., an intelligence consultant expert has organized a May 25 field test of drones for anti-poaching surveillance on a game reserve near the Kruger National Park.
We were invited by Snitch to meet with him, but sadly no one from NIKELA will be in SA at that time, however members of the SPOTS team will be involved and we look forward to positive reports from the testing and hope for more collaborative efforts to extend the force for good to stop the poaching.
Despite the alarming numbers of rhino and elephants being poached in Africa and South Africa in particular we remain hopeful that as people like Peter and Tom, and conservationists and academia band together that good will prevail.