CONSERVATION AND DRONES
Drone Inspired is in strategic partnership with the Ajubatus Foundation – a Specialist Wildlife Research unit that has been fully operational in the Kruger National Park for the last 8 years. Wildlife research is an enormous field of scientific scope and the use of UAV/ Drone technology of incalculable benefit in monitoring conditions and establishing good management plans for wildlife regions on both a small and large scale (the Kruger National Park extends to over 2,20 million hectares within the South African boundary alone).
DRONES IN AGRICULTURE
Drones are able to operate where conventional aircraft are often unable to:
- Low level flight of fixed wing and/or helicopters is environmentally “unfriendly”, enormously expensive and often exceedingly dangerous.
- Conventional flight operations can also be significantly affected by weather conditions (high elevation regions in tropical zones can preclude the use of certain aircraft during peak heat periods of the day).
- The cost implications of conventional flight operations can often prove prohibitive – helicopters in particular are enormously expensive to operate in harsh environs due to the complexity and number of “working parts”. Drone applications will not replace the use of conventional aircraft, however will vastly reduce the flying requirements currently employed, vastly reducing expenditure, lowering environmentally unsound applications, and ensuring a safer operational environment.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
The diversity of applications is similar, to a degree as that contained in forestry and conventional farming applications but potentially extends beyond that in providing additional specialist operations such as:
- Annual or bi annual game census utilising line of sight and automated flight patterns.
- Quick rescue response to injured animals (most notably endangered species as listed by CITES.
- As a forerunner to conventional “follow-up” where “incidents” are recorded and assessed.
- Safety and Security components (such as tourist break downs in National Parks),l accidents in remote wildlife areas, conventional search and rescue applications etc.
- Monitoring and assessing degraded areas and spread of erosion and advanced analytics in determining soil types and diversity, optimal recovery programmes etc.
- Mapping of regions for establishment of artificial water holes based on seep lines, game trails etc.
- Riverine system health and prevalence of invasive plants etc.
- Fire trends and high biomass regions (footage also assists in development of optimal fire breaks, annual controlled burns etc).
- Anti-poaching activities on both micro and macro scale.
- Road mapping for tourism and management road applications
- Geographic research mapping and historic monitoring of changes to the environment, vegetation, carrying capacity estimates, etc.
- Specific species distribution within regions (this has been undertaken globally on various species of mammal and birdlife).
- Conservation mapping has shown in certain studies, that drone application provides data thirty times more detailed than conventional mapping techniques. Equally important is the fact that the mapping process can be effected in a matter of days rather than, at times, months of manual survey.
- Drones are also ideal in mapping and highlighting land use changes such as deforestation and the impact of such practices on the natural environment.
- Tracking of annual migrations, mortality amongst species on migration and the impact on the fauna of the region both prior to and post migration.
The US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management and the US Geological Services have used UAV’s for an extended period to extremely high levels of success.
Good conservation practice is an extremely labour intensive, costly and time consuming process however is a heritage to all mankind. The state of our natural environment is also a yardstick to pollution levels within regions and by default, the precautionary measures that might need to be undertaken. The use of UAV/Drones has an enormous potential in Conservation Research, and takes wildlife monitoring to a whole new level of technical excellence. Where formerly potentially invasive and compromising “Radio tracking Collars” utilising local or GPS receivers were the soul method of monitoring and/or tracking target species in the wild, drone applications afford and environmentally friendly and non-invasive solution to Scientists in the field.
The scope of application in Academic Research and Natural Sciences is enormous and the merging of commercial technology with field research is not new, drones simply take this complimentary function to a whole new level of technical excellence. So, in reality drone applications have a unique and valued role to play in preserving our natural heritage and the Ajubatus Foundation, as our partner in Research, has an enviable track record in this field. Drone inspired is justifiably proud to be associated with Conservation Research and sees this as an integral aspect of “giving back” to our environment.
A secondary application lies in the optimal deployment of veterinary operations in wildlife conservation. Where conventionally extensive field work would be a precursor to tracking injured game, and often the enormously expensive deployment of helicopters to reach wildlife in distress, drone applications can be speedily applied and at very low cost.
An article released recently indicates that Google will be sponsoring the WWF in the deployment of drones over Africa to assist in anti-poaching activities – something that has seen a vast increase over the last decade and which could ultimately lead to the total decimation of African wildlife as we know it. Supporting drone application in the Natural Sciences is an obvious course and adds to the arsenal of scientists working in the field. Drone Inspired, in conjunction with the Ajubatus Foundation, is endeavouring to launch a Scientific Study into the application and effects of drone operations in our natural environment.
From a Marine Conservation and Management perspective, drones are ideal vessels for monitoring fishing activities, whether recreational or commercial along our coastlines. Issues such a Perlemoen (Abalone) poaching, Chokka quotas and licenced vessels, can be monitored on both a vastly more cost effective and Safety and Security components. Drones are able to offer an element of surprise and the all but silent nature of craft, minimal sizing, offer the element of surprise to illegal fishing activities. The craft are also ideal for following marine migrations such as the annual “Sardine Run” each year along our South African Coastline. The concept of deployment of drones by state authority such as Marine And Coastal Management is largely dependent on commercial applications and the results derived therefrom.