Airware, the maker of a platform for commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development, has partnered with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a black rhino sanctuary in northern Kenya, to protect endangered animals.
According to Ol Pejeta, for two weeks in December 2013, a three-man team from Airware traveled to Kenya to carry out a series of in-the-field tests of a UAV prototype. The conservancy says the Aerial Ranger is being molded specifically to observe, track and protect wildlife.
Equipped with Airware's autopilot platform and control software, Ol Pejeta notes that the Aerial Ranger has the capacity to deliver real-time video and thermal imaging feeds to a team on the ground. The UAV will be able to respond to poaching incidents in the field, sending live footage back to rangers.
Airware has developed a simple digital mapping interface, the conservancy reports, meaning that even operators with no pilot training should be able to control the UAV from the ground station. Ol Pejeta says that operators simply click a spot on a Google Earth-style map and select the ‘fly here’ or ‘point camera here’ option. In the same menu is a ‘return home’ button that will send the UAV back to its launch point without further instruction.
Ol Pejeta adds that the Aerial Ranger will conduct wildlife censuses for the conservancy.