Having recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, AREND (Aircraft for Rhino and Environmental Defense)—an international non-profit group—is set to deploy vision-guided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in order to detect illegal poaching in Africa’s national parks.
AREND, which is backed by Wildlife Protection Solutions (WPS), is student team lead by Dr. Jean Koster at the University of Colorado at Boulder and also features engineers in the aerospace, mechanical, electrical, and software fields. The team features members from Germany, Finland, and South Africa.
The UAV will be capable of manual/radio control flight with autonomous capabilities as well as quick delivery of payload to any location in a given sector, while flying silently and returning to safe landing location in a South African park or reserve. AREND will be equipped with a gimbal-stabilized visual camera system capable of capturing high-quality images throughout the search pattern of the flight mission.
These UAVs are currently still in development, but once deployed, will be able to perform surveillance while distinguishing between people, large animals, and other inanimate objects. The AREND team suggested that squadrons of the UAVs will eventually be deployed and will work in conjunction with a larger network of sensors to narrow a search area and record and alert authorities to the presence of poachers and protect the area’s rhino population.
Whether discussing whether or not UAVs should be legal for consumer use or weighing the safety concerns; UAVs are a topic that has been brought up more than a few times on Vision Systems Design. I think a lot of the discussions have probably focused on the UAVs flying in densely populated city areas, which probably does present some safety concerns, including plane interference, unexpected crashes, and so on. In this case, where the UAVs would be flying in wilderness conditions, the use of drones seems 100% logical and safe, and I hope the mission proves to be worthwhile.