Drones tested in KNP to help fight poaching

SKUKUZA – The effectiveness of drones to empower rangers with more effective night-time capabilities is continuously being tested in the Kruger National Park.

Unmanned Drone Solutions, in collaboration with Air Shepherd and The Peace Parks Foundation, founded a joint company a year ago, and has been testing the effectiveness of drones to assist rangers in their anti-poaching patrols.
Also read: Rhino poaching: less slaughtered in 2015 than in 2014

They will continue with refined models in the coming year.  “Over the next 12 months we will evaluate the effectiveness of drones in the Kruger National Park,” said.

Mr Werdmuller von Elgg, director of UAV & Drone Solutions, during a media briefing in Kruger on Sunday.  “These drones can be deployed from anywhere in the bush, and fly for two and a half hours,” he continued.

The drone can go out and “look” for people in the park, and the coordinates of the activity be passed along to the rangers. A live video feed can be maintained about 25 kilometres away from the operations van on the ground.

Von Elgg said they had found that there was a direct correlation between more visible policing and decreased illegal activities, though the technology has not led to any arrests yet.

“We are still in the initial stages of understanding their effectiveness,” he said. “If we look at a score out of 10, we are still at one.”

Von Elgg was adamant that the technology has unknown potential, and can greatly assist in the mission to arrest poachers, and save live rhinos.

The occasion also saw the launch of a previous model of drone that they have tested in the park, but found to be unsuccessful. Among others, the reason was that it needed an airstrip to launch and land.

Also read: SANParks raises awareness on World Pangolin day

Petro Kotzé

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