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Anti-Poaching Drones By Airware Prove To Successful At Protecting Endangered Species

14/01/2014 09:20 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Drones are not just for watching, killing and generally making people feel uneasy, they can also be put to much good use.

A San Francisco startup has just announced it has conducted successful trials using them to monitor poachers and protect endangered species in Africa.

The Airware control system consisting of two fixed-wing aircraft and one flexible wing drone was tested at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

rhino

Rangers stand over the body of a rhino shot by poachers in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

Company CEO, Jonathan Downey, said: "They were designed to operate completely autonomously, well out of the line of sight of the pilot.

"Using drones allows them to spend a lot more time in the air, seeing a lot more detail, and for far cheaper than using traditional aircraft or jeeps.

The drones are equipped with infra-red camera's for night-time viewing and optical for the day.

Downey said: "Using infrared we can easily spot a campfire being used by poachers, who often come in to the park at night.

"The level of detail is such that we can see an elephant's trunk change from white to black after he takes a drink of cold water."

Downey is keen to demonstrate that drone technology can be used for positive purposes and not just the military applications we tend to hear about.

He told Techcrunch: "I think the more people that see these, the more comfortable they’ll be with someone coming to their house and doing a rooftop inspection using a small drone."

Ol Pejeta Conservancy raised $46,000 through an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to make the test possible but there are a number of issues to be resolved before it is fully adapted.

They said in a blog post: "While the Aerial RangerTM surpassed all expectations during its two-week African safari, there is still some way to go before it makes a regular appearance in the skies of Ol Pejeta.

"Ol Pejeta and Airware are committed to making the Aerial Ranger effective and long lasting, a challenge easier said than done as many testing UAVs in the field have learnt.

"While the sensors are tweaked, the screws tightened and the wires adjusted, wildlife conservationists everywhere can prepare themselves for a revolution."

Additionally the park provides a huge testing ground for drone technology not available in the US outside of a few heavily regulated sites.

Endangered Animals