Drones take on poachers with supercomputer analytics

Rhinos, elephants and other wildlife are being poached every year, with the trend (never mind the continued efforts from the tech community and the like) on an increase. Game farms and the animals themselves can use every little bit of help it can get – and this is where the Lindbergh Foundation comes in.

The Foundation, with a bit of help from the University of Maryland, has built and deployed a number of drones to fight the scourge that is poaching elephants and rhino across southern Africa – and it has been hugely successful thus far.

The initiative, called Air Shepard, makes use of drones packed to the brim with some really cool technology, like advanced infrared surveillance systems and supercomputer-based predictive analytic tools.

“Every day, our University of Maryland supercomputer based predictive software will analyze all of the historical data we have about a particular game park (poaching locations, times, weather specifics, environmental conditions, ingress and egress routes, topographical constraints, ranger availability and mobility, etc.). Then we’ll develop an assessment of where the high-probability locations are that should be monitored,” Air Shepard explains.

The launch of the drones have been so successful, that no animals have been killed while Air Shepard was in the sky.

“We know exactly where to fly – with a very high probability of getting there before the poachers. There is no other capability that even comes close to this. It works. Flying in one area where as many as 19 rhinos were killed each month, there have been no deaths – for six months. None at all.”

And that is after two years flying around southern Africa and over 650 missions later.

The use of these drones have been so successful during trials that South African National Parks (SANParks) said late last week that the use of drones to stop poaching plays a huge role in combating the issue and that it will be evaluating the initiative in the next year.

“There is an alarming increase in animal poaching. In the past year poachers killed nearly 40 000 elephants and over 1 200 rhinos. At this rate both will be extinct within 10 years. Throughout Africa, an estimated 100 000 elephants were killed between 2010-2013 alone,” Air Shepard said.

Air Shepard wants to step up its efforts, but it needs your help. The company want to raise $500 000 through crowdfunding on IndieGoGo to implement the drones in the Kruger National Park for one year as well as expand into other African countries.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Arno Meinjies]


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