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Reserve tests drones to fight poachers

Thursday 21 Aug 2014 12:34 p.m.

A male elephant wanders on the grasslands of Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Reuters)

A male elephant wanders on the grasslands of Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Reuters)

Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 36000-hectare rhinoceros reserve in Kenya, has teamed up with a San Francisco-based technology company called Airware which develops drone autopilot systems.

The reserve is hoping to use the drones to catch wildlife poachers, helping the sniffer dogs and rangers that already work against the poachers.

The drone can be operated at the base, and thermal imaging cameras mean that it could fly at night and enable operators to recognise the different shapes of animals and poachers.

The drone was tested out and flew at an altitude of about 150m, so it wouldn't startle the wildlife or the tourists.

The trial was deemed a success, but more work needs to be done. Robert Breare, Ol Pejeta's chief commercial officer, tells the BBC: "The operating and autopilot systems worked flawlessly and were easy to operate, but finding an airframe that was robust enough for the environment proved difficult."


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