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Drone tech to keep endangered rhinos safe

Thanks to PRISM, Tempora, the Snooper’s Charter and a handful of other privacy invading revelations about our technological lives, it’s nice to see one bit of spying tech that is being used for the power of good. After a successful Indiegogo campaign, an anti-poaching drone is set to be launched into the skies above Kenya’s Ol Pejeta wildlife reserve in an effort to further protect the depleted white rhinoceros population that it has there.

The timing couldn’t be more key either, as 24 rhinos have been killed in Kenya so far this year, with at least double that expected to be slaughtered by poachers by the end of the year. As Wired points out, with the average price of a single rhino horn going for the equivalent of nearly £8,000 and the average daily wage for Kenyans at around the $1 mark, it’s understandable why this is a problem.

However, now with new technological efforts, perhaps poachers can be scared away, or at the very least, caught in the act of attacking these rare beasts. Thanks to a funding effort of $35,000 (£23,000) on the IndieGogo site and further donations, the £45,600 drone could be purchased and fitted with technology, designed explicitly for this sort of purpose.

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The drone is capable of flying for up to 90 minutes at a time, giving it a range of some 80 miles and thanks to its gimbal mounted  HD camera and FLIR thermal imaging, it’ll be able to keep track of herd movements and spot any trouble brewing. On top of that, it’s also equipped with an RFID scanner, meaning individual animals can be kept track of more effectively than ever before.
“We hope to have the drone operational in the next two months and then, depending on what we learn, we will decide on how best to move forward. Drones are not a silver bullet but they will certainly have an important role to play in the anti-poaching armoury,” said Ol Pejeta’s commercial director, Rob Breare.

While immediate protection of some of the world’s last rhinos is an important goal, the team at Ol Pejeta are thinking further into the future too. Ideally, in years to come, as the drone fleet grows, people from around the world will be able to take virtual safaris as the drones follow the parks animals around, giving people a much better look at these rare creatures and hopefully spreading the interest to see them continue to exist.

KitGuru Says: Here’s hoping that these drones allow for an extra level of protection against poaching and help the relatively few rangers stay on top of the potential genocide of the last few rhinos left. They’re not kidding when they say numbers are small, there’s only four Northern white rhinos left living in a semi-wild state, with a further three in captivity in the US and Czech republic. 

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