Poachers Take Heed - Helicam to the Rescue
If you have ever watched footage of a herd of elephants responding to a threat, you might realize that they tend to surround their youngest and smallest members and face outward against the threat. The problem for wildlife - even as large and fierce as elephants or rhinoceroses - is that they don't always perceive the danger around them until it is far too late. This is the main reason that poaching of endangered wildlife is such a huge dilemma, and yet it is one that aerial filming devices are seeking to overcome.
Flying Camera Deterrents
A recent news story from the BBC explained how some of Africa's conservancy programs are turning to the use of drone and helicam equipment to help overcome the threat of poaching.
The story looked at the massive Ol Pejeta Conservancy that contains over 90k acres of preserved land. As home to some of the few remaining white and black rhinos, it is a place that is in dire need of constant monitoring against poaching. Obviously, the size of the terrain alone makes it nearly impossible to oversee using only manpower, and this is where a drone and helicam array comes in to the rescue.
Though the park tested out some flying camera equipment that was a bit more advanced than the best consumer models, like the DJI Phantom series, they were able to easily demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology. They used a drone and flying camera array that also featured thermal sensing tech for nighttime operation and which allowed them to determine if this would reduce or eliminate nighttime threats; which it did.
The team operating the helicam became aerial filming experts in order to get the best results, but even when a communications cable was accidentally severed, the helicam had adequate software to safely return to base automatically. This means that the advancement of helicam gear is going to be of enormous benefit to preservation organizations around the globe.
It is not only Africa that faces threats to rare animals due to poaching. Additionally, some rare animals are threatened because they pose a threat themselves. Tigers throughout India, as an example, are often a feared menace, but conservation organizations there could also put drone and helicam arrays to use to monitor situations and keep animals and people safe from harm.
The Current Tech
This story out of Africa, however, proves that helicam tech is only just getting started. The group indicated that it had used some of the smaller available helicam and flying camera systems and had hopes for investing in larger drone devices in the future. The need for longer ranges and longer batter lives are already two issues being considered by helicam enthusiasts and users around the globe, and this is something that conservationists will be happy to invest in, as well.
The best news about the current drone and flying camera technologies is that some devices are able to fly high enough, and quietly enough to provide safety to the animals without also disrupting them. The downside is that there is still the need to integrate the helicam data and the resources on the ground.
The World Wildlife Fund and Google are working together to provide all kinds of technology for "syncing" with the flying camera and drone devices. This will keep rangers and animals under easy observation (using special tagging), and will speed up any rescue or intervention needed.
Flying camera gear can be a wildly creative outlet, can be put to use in a long list of possible industries, but is being best used when saving and rescuing others - human and animals alike.
Wall, Matthew. Can drones help tackle Africa's wildlife poaching crisis? BBC.com. 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28132521