*WARNING VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.*
The Lindbergh Foundation non-profit has teamed up with UAV and Drone Solutions in South Africa to form the Air Shepherd Initiative. Their goal is to battle the poaching crisis in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. For more information on how you can help their valiant and effective effort to save Rhinos, Elephants, and other animals, go to www.airshepherd.org.
We told you stories about how drones can potentially save humans' lives. But what about those of animals? Well this is a story about drones and how they are saving animals' lives. However we do want to warn you that some of the images used in this story may be disturbing to some of our viewers...
Did you know that over 1,200 Rhinos were killed in
South Africa in 2014 alone, as well as over 40,000
elephants!? It is an absolute crisis right now but
those peak numbers are beginning to trend
downwards thanks to the tireless efforts of people like
Otto and Rob at UAV & Drone Solutions in South
Also known as UDS, they have joined forces with a U.S. non-profit called the Lindbergh Foundation to form the Air Shepherd Initiative to battle poaching using drones. John L. Petersen: Chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation: "The idea came to me about 3 and a half years ago when I heard about how that airplanes were being shot at and they were crashing airplanes and other kinds of things, and the fact that you can't fly airplanes at night! And so I went out to talk to drone manufacturers to see if it was feasible and it turns out that absolutely it was!" Otto Werdmuller Von Elgg: "So they approached us because my partner, a guy called Rob Hannaford, is the sort of go-to guy or was then..."
Rob has been doing UAS work in Kruger National Park for over a decade. A conservation group approached them and spurred Rob and Otto to start UDS. After a series of different drones they landed on a design that they named the BatHawk. Rob Hannaford: "So we fly very stealthy electric aircraft now that gives us between 2.5 and 5 hours of flight time depending on the configuration." The BatHawk is a combination of pieces they buy off the shelf and parts they build themselves. Rob Hannaford: "The fuselage, the powertrain, everything else is something we build and fabricate in South Africa." Otto Werdmuller Von Elgg: "You can get all sorts of different cameras and technologies and you can do different things. So you can fly a multispectral camera which will give you a vegetation stress analysis. You can do all sorts of things as a byproduct of visible policing. So we would say with more money and resources we can put more airplanes into the sky and we would have a visible policing scenario." John Petersen: "We'll take this any way it works, and if our deterrent is enough to keep them from shooting animals then man we think that's successful. And we've got emerging data that says exactly that. Where we fly the poaching stops." Otto: "Most of our operations, 90%, is done at night, because thats the capacity that the current anti-poaching teams don't have, is the night time capability so we add that to their sort of toolbox. Currently we carry thermal camera on it. Generally if there's people within the field of view we're going to see them. " John L. Petersen: "I mean just the other night, the night before last, we caught 3 poachers running around in Kruger National Park and I've got great video of them running, you know, the drone looking down and watching these guys run like crazy." Otto: "Most of the poaching happens late afternoon, early evening and then they try and exit under the cover of darkness." John Petersen: " This is the first time that anyone's been able to effectively operate at night and take the night away from the the poachers." The operation is effective, vital, and made possible by the help of drones. However there is still a lot of work to be done. Otto: "Drones are not going to solve the poaching problem. It's built up an enormous expectation which is unrealistic. The silver bullet is addressing the demand side of the equation. We address the supply side because we don't have a choice." According to many conclusive medical studies on Rhino Horn properties and Dr Raj Amin of the Zoological Society of London: (SOT) “Medically, it’s the same as if you were chewing your own nails.” Working with corporate sponsors is first prize for Air Shephard, As companies like Flir (pronounced Fleer)supply them with advanced camera systems. But to expand and help more rhinos they need more support. Otto: "We'd love some big corporates to come behind us and support us. This operation is 50% funded personally by myself and my partners. We're not rich guys we're just passionate and stupid." For more information go to AirShepherd.org and donate today. At air Vuz News, I’m Kendall Mark.