Consistent with its mission of pursuing projects that use technology to benefit the environment, the Lindbergh Foundation, under the umbrella of its Air Shepherd program has brought together three significant organizations in a powerful initiative to stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa.
In the last half-dozen years there has been an exponential increase in the killing of elephants and rhinos by poachers.
Throughout Africa, over 100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and the end of 2012, and 40,000 more in 2013 alone. At that rate African elephants will be extinct within 10 years.
The Lindbergh Foundation, under the auspices of the Air Shepherd initiative, the University of Maryland and UAV & Drone Solutions are working together to bring sophisticated, supercomputer-based predictive analytics along with night-vision capable drone aircraft that will be able to see poachers after dark so that rangers can be mobilized to apprehend them
Drones and Data make the Difference
Tom Snitch, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computing has developed breakthrough technology, APE (Anti-Poaching Engine), that uses sophisticated predictive analytic software (originally developed for the military to predict insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan) along with high-resolution satellite imagery, intricate mathematics and complex algorithms to determine exactly where animals and poachers are likely to be on a given night.
Snitch makes the analogy that rhinos are to US troops as poachers are to terroristic bombers saying, “we used UAVs in Baghdad to find IED bombers and now we are using UAVs to find poachers in South Africa.”
The UAVs operated by UDS, are equipped with infrared cameras and GPS to identify animals and poachers with thermal imaging–they can literally see any heat image moving across the plains at night in real time. The drones are battery powered–almost completely silent and nearly invisible, providing operators with the critical intelligence necessary to rapidly deploy rangers to the location of the poacher before he kills.
“We don’t necessarily look for poachers, but we really need to know where the animals are. With this knowledge, we can fly UAVs in the African night sky with infrared cameras to alert us to where the poachers are coming from to attack the prey.” said Snitch.
The drone operations have been extensively tested in the field with great success. Adding the additional ability to predict, with high accuracy, where the threats are likely to be coming from will only increase the likelihood that where our drones are flying the poaching will stop.