Air Shepherd, a program of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, has assembled UAV and Drone Solutions (UDS) and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) in a collaborative effort to maximize the use of drone technology to fight the war on rhino and elephant poaching in southern Africa.
This anti-poaching program combines unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from UDS with predictive analytic software technology from UMIACS. Air Shepherd aims to raise $500,000 via Indiegogo with a campaign that runs through April 11.
The algorithms now saving elephants, designed by professor Tom Snitch, Ph.D. at UMIACS, were originally developed for the military to predict insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, Snitch has adapted the technology to predict with more than 90% accuracy where poachers are likely to strike.
“We use very high-resolution satellite imagery to provide extremely detailed maps of the topography of an area,” comments Snitch. “A wide array of data with many different variables is collected and overlaid on the imagery, and by using our algorithms, we are able to devise an analytical model of how animals, poachers and rangers simultaneously move through space and time.”
Equipped with infrared cameras and GPS to identify animals and poachers, the aircraft can see any heat image moving across the plains at night in real time. The drones are battery powered, making them almost completely silent and providing operators with the critical intelligence necessary to rapidly deploy rangers to the threat location to apprehend poachers before they can kill.
‘We have the distinct potential of being able to turn the tables on this threatening trend in a very short time; once we have these teams in the field, our experience says that the killing starts to rapidly grind to a stop. In short, when the drones fly, the poaching stops,” explains John Petersen, chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation.
A video on the project can be found here.