AREND Project aims to ward off poachers with unmanned aerial vehicles
An unmanned aerial system being developed by AREND aims to deter rhino poaching in Africa's national parks (Photo: Shutterstock)
Like many a technology before it, the aerial drone is finding applications far beyond military circles, from burrito delivery to surveying broken bridges. One emerging area with huge potential is wildlife conservation, with drones delivering the ability to patrol and detect illegal poachers from the air. AREND (Aircraft for Rhino and Environmental Defense) is an international team of students currently developing an unmanned aerial system with the ultimate objective of combating poaching in Africa's national parks.
The AREND project is backed by Wildlife Protection Solutions (WPS), an international non-profit group concerned with the conservation of endangered species. The team consists of experts in aerospace, mechanical, electrical and software engineering stationed around the globe, from Helsinki to Colorado.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, the team at AREND has proceeded to ramp up development of the system. The aircraft has a pusher configuration, which refers to the location of the propeller at the tail end of the fuselage, with communications antennas built into the wings and a gimbaled camera into the nose. The team says it will be capable of silently performing autonomous searches, capturing quality images throughout and then returning safely to a landing area.
The finished product will perform surveillance while distinguishing between people, large animals and other objects such as aircraft wreckage. The team envisions that squadrons of the craft will eventually be permanently ready for fast deployment, working in conjunction with a larger network of sensors to narrow the search area and record and alert authorities to the presence of poachers. This should help build pressure on poacher networks, who AREND says are only becoming more sophisticated and contend with an arrest rate of only 5 percent.
The team behind AREND isn't alone in floating aerial drones as a solution to illegal poaching. Back in January we looked an initiative from Californian company Airware which saw the testing of UAVs at the Oj Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Other drone-led conservation efforts to get off the ground this year include curtailing illegal fishing on Belize's barrier reef and hunting down invasive weeds from the air in Australia.
There's no word yet as to exactly when AREND's drones will take to the skies, but with demand for rhino horn on the rise in China and South East Asia, it won't be a moment too soon when they do.
About the Author
Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches.
All articles by Nick Lavars
One hunter, one gun, one destroyed drone...
@ Bob Flint - just what I thought.
The purpose of this, and the "Robotic raptors that look and fly like the real thing" (also posted today) could be combined.
Then again, that might cause poachers to simply shoot all raptors nearby before moving on to the actual target. Human beings are the scum of this planet, bottom line.
Would be good if they sent back video footage in real time, and then launched a Hellfire at the scum that kill all amazing wild animals.
The photo of the three rhinos side by side is very disturbing. Hard to tell if they are alive or not...
It pisses me off to know how many of these noble creatures like elephants, lions, tigers, and rhinos are killed for human vanity.
I saw a PBS documentary some years ago wherein the game wardens were as much a target for poachers as the animals being targeted. The wardens shot poachers and left them where they dropped. At least there was some benefit to scavengers. Applying drone technology is a great idea. My only concern would be to see that any weapons be collected and destroyed. And the poachers can still be left where they drop.
@owlbeyou, you can relax, the three rhino's in the pic are still alive, since they all still have their horns
- The truly horrific pics are those showing a Rhino with only a bloodied stump where his horn used to be.
As is normally the case with a lot of organised criminal activities, the guy on the ground is doing this to survive economically. The customers are too far removed to really care about what is happening. The real evil people are the middle men, who knows what is happening and doing it purely out of greed.
This is probably counterproductive! Any modeller will tell you that a pusher configuration makes a definite NOISE and will soon be recognised by the poachers,especially as there is no other mechanical noise to compete. They will simply hide and resume when the drone has gone.
You should be a little more sceptical of marketing!
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