The word “drone” might have drawn negative associations in recent years thanks to American military tactics in the Middle East, but now these clever machines are fighting for a very different cause.
Last year, Google joined the fight against the scourge of poaching on the African continent, donating 5 million dollars to the WWF to build automated, lightweight surveillance drones with a view to helping anti-poaching units get the upper hand over the increasing number of rhino and elephant poachers that are operating across the African continent.
South Africa (which lost more than 1,000 rhinos to poaching last year alone) and Namibia have led the call for the anti-poaching battle to go “hi-tech”, and with the backing of Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the drones are now almost ready to be launched across all of Namibia’s rhino and elephant conservation areas, including Etosha, after a trial run was carried out in November 2013.
A silent eye in the sky, the unmanned aircraft are deployed with high-resolution night vision and daylight cameras which wirelessly send real-time video footage from the air into a central command center combined with other surveillance streams, facilitating the work being done on the ground, and also reducing the risk of direct combat that is sometimes faced by anti-poaching units.
This incredible device can fit into a carry bag, and can be launched from almost anywhere with the help of a simple bungee. Once it’s flown its mission, it will float back to a designated spot on the ground via its own small orange parachute.
Manie Le Roux, head of Centre Parks, Ministry of Environment and tourism, recently said, with regards to the drones, that “we are heading in the right direction to make it too difficult for poachers to score successes in Namibia”. Let’s all hope he’s right.