An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or civilian drone is a pilotless aerial vehicle. These drones can be flown autonomously or by remote control. When flying autonomously the drone is controlled by a computer program that utilises GPS on both the drone and the ground station to set a flight plan that the drone will follow with no other input from a pilot.
The use of drones has revolutionised the protection and monitoring of endangered species like Rhinoceros. Drones have given counter-poaching units the ability to cover larger areas in a shorter space of time. The current drones however are very one-dimensional and have certain limitations. The rainbow Rhino initiative wants to grow the scope and ability of the use of the drones through the implementation of cutting edge technology.
The initiative wants to develop a system that all counter-poaching units are capable of using in any location.
The ultimate goal of the drones
- Automatically upload the GPS location from the satellite device on the rhino to the drone
- Allow the drone to locate the rhino in real time
- Photo/Video the rhino from the air
- Initially return with all imagery stored in memory device in drone
- Ultimately provide real time images of the rhino from the air
The drones also provide the ability to perform fence patrols and to monitor threat areas. The foundation would ultimately like to implement technology on the drones like shape recognition for the locating and following of potential poachers and suspicious vehicles. This technology can be further developed for the monitoring and counting of specific animal species.
Drones have the ability to work in both day and night. With the use of thermal cameras the drone is able to deter and prevent potential poachers from accessing certain areas.
The key to counter poaching methods is early detection. Drones are being developed to help with this. The ability to feed the information back from the drone, to the counter poaching unit is imperative to give the unit adequate time to respond.