This month’s How It Works magazine is all about drones, and these unmanned flying machines are now in use to help save rhinos.
As well as helping to save the lives of humans, drones can also come to the rescue of animals in the wild. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary but has lost several rhinos to poachers in recent years. They have now teamed up with drone company Airware to see if unmanned aircraft can help protect this endangered species.
A prototype Aerial Ranger drone, featuring a camera that can deliver real-time video and thermal imaging to a team on the ground, has been tested during the day and night to respond to poaching incidents.
Ol Pejeta only has around 150 rangers, each having to cover 2.4 square kilometres (0.93 square miles) of the 364-square-kilometre (140.5-square-mile) sanctuary. This makes response times to poaching incidents slow, but using a drone allows them to get there immediately and record footage of the offending individuals to use as evidence in court and deter further attacks.
The drones would also be useful for monitoring the rhino, as well as protecting them. It would allow Ol Pejeta to conduct their annual wildlife census more regularly and cheaply, helping them to reliably keep track of the ecosystem.
Microsoft has also ventured into animal-tracking drones with their ZooTracer project. It involves attaching tiny GPS tracking and sensing devices, weighing just seven grams (0.25 ounces), to animals. These devices can record all sorts of data, such as the animal’s speed, and then a drone is deployed to the animal’s location to get the data back and monitor the animal further.
Click here to donate to Ol Pejeta, and help them fund their rhino protection technology.
Image from flickr.com/photos/arnolouise