Here's A Use Of Drones (Nearly) Everyone Will Like
from the eyes-in-the-sky dept
It seems like every other headline is about drones these days — drones being used in battle, drones being used by the police, drones as a threat to privacy. As we’ve noted before, it’s easy to get the impression that drones are inherently evil, and should be made illegal or something (good luck with that.) But drones are simply a new kind of technology, largely made possible by Moore’s Law and the dramatic reductions in size, weight and cost it has brought with it for electronic control devices. Like any other technology, drones can be used for all kinds of purposes, both good and bad. It’s just that we have heard mostly about the more dubious ones. To remedy that, here’s a heart-warming tale of how drones could tackle one of the most serious threats facing wildlife around the world: poaching.
Conservation group WWF has announced plans to deploy surveillance drones to aid its efforts to protect species in the wild, as the South African government revealed that 82 rhinos had been poached there since the new year.
WWF’s three-year project also involves combining data from unmanned aerial vehicles, cheap mobile phone technology tracking animal movements, and handheld devices carried by rangers, in a bid to outsmart often heavily armed poachers who bribe corrupt officials to avoid patrols and find wildlife.
This sounds like a brilliant use of technologies to solve several problems. The huge areas involved make it almost impossible for a few rangers to cover, but multiple drones flying high could easily do that. Similarly, using drones would avoid the dangers that rangers face on a daily basis when dealing with poachers prepared to shoot if discovered. Drones might even be used for more aggressive management of poachers — for example, safely disabling their vehicles. Given these and other benefits, it’s no wonder, then, that drones are being deployed for similar purposes around the world:
Drones are already being used by conservationists to monitor wildlife, such as orangutan populations in Sumatra, anti-whaling activists are using them against the Japanese whaling fleet, and a charity in Kenya recently beat its target of raising $35,000 in crowdfunding for a drone to protect rhinos and other wildlife in the country’s Laikipia district.
As well as using crowdfunding to pay for more of these drones, one interesting approach would be to apply crowdsourcing to help protect animals directly. If the live feeds from drones were available on a Web site for anyone to watch, it would be possible to monitor huge areas 24 hours a day by using online volunteers around the world who drop by to keep an eye on things for a while. If they spotted something suspicious, they could alert the Web site, which would pass on the information to the relevant rangers nearby who could take a look on their screens and, if necessary, on the ground.
This would help protect vulnerable animals, share the burden of monitoring them with drones, and help people around the world to become more engaged with conservation. Who could possibly have any problems with this kind of drone use — apart from the poachers, of course?