With one rhino shot every eight hours in South Africa, government officials, private businesses and conservation groups are trying everything in their power to stop poachers in their tracks. Since 95 percent of poaching incidents happen at night, it’s exceedingly difficult to spot them- until now. Through collaboration efforts, private UAV companies are developing a new way to spot poachers in the dark: unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).
One of those private companies is UDS. Rob Hannaford, Unmanned Vehicle University graduate and the company’s President, tackles a problem never before addressed with UAV technology: monitoring threatened animals, without individual trackers, in real time. According to Hannaford, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) are the most efficient and successful tools for surveying sprawling grounds. UAVs provide instantaneous footage, while also remaining relatively undetected. UAVs are equipped with hi-res thermal imaging cameras, long-range video feed capabilities, and object detection software. In conjunction with the local authorities and anti-poaching groups, UDS has successfully flown over 1,500 anti-poaching missions.
Obviously, the applications for drones in conservation efforts are enormous. If drones can help stop poachers, can they also track migrating animals overhead? Can they help us stealthily observe animals without having to place individual trackers on them, or disturb them with loud aircrafts? Can we extend our use of drones beyond the land to the sea, to not only film, but to document behavior sea mammal behavior? The answer is yes- which is why drones are bound to transform how we obtain information on animals, and how we can save their dwindling populations.