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High Tech meets African Rhino

Aerial Ranger drones that secure wildlife from poaching and allow virtual viewing by wardens, researchers and tourists.

In partnership with
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High Tech meets African Rhino is sponsored by Lemnos Labs, a hardware incubator based in San Francisco.

**NEWSFLASH**

Hurrah!! Huge thanks to our contributors.  We have surpassed our target contributions which is fabulous news and we now have drone parts on order.  Thank you so much.

Now that our IndieGoGo campaign is closed, you can still contribute here:

  • If you are based in the United Kingdom or Europe, you can donate using JustGiving. Click here to donate.
  • If you are based in the United States, you can donate using FirstGiving. Click here to donate.

Please do not stop contributing! Any extra received will be ring-fenced for the drones programme and will cover any ongoing operations costs and extra RFID tagging.  Who knows, if we have enough we can expand the drone fleet!


Help deploy an AERIAL RANGER to Ol Pejeta!  

A new unmanned aerial vehicle designed to protect endangered rhino. Read on below to learn about Ol Pejeta's drone programme and our efforts to protect some of the last rhino in the world.

As featured in Forbes OnlineBusiness InsiderAl Jazeera, The Telegraph and Scientific American among many others.

Ol Pejeta coverage


The Problem - Poaching of an Endangered Species

Welcome to Ol Pejeta, a 90,000 acre conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya.  

The conservancy contains 4 of the last 7 Northern White rhino in existence, a number of other endangered species, and the 'Big Five' (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino).  Just imagine being one of the last seven humans alive (and no it is not as fun as your mind might be suggesting).

There is currently a poaching epidemic with countless rhino being slaughtered for their horns, which are believed to be a cure-all for illnesses. In a country with an average wage of just $1 a day, a rhino horn can bring in $12,000 (that’s 1 night’s work for over 30 years income).

Rhino Horns

Trying to keep track of endangered wildlife in an area 6x the size of Manhattan, and with a team of just 120 rangers, can be like finding needles in a hay-stack.  The teams urgently need aerial support so that they can ensure they are covering the areas most at risk. 

 

The Solution - An AERIAL RANGER

We believe a solution is at hand. It's an awesome solution because eventually it will also allow people all over the world, from homes to offices to schools and colleges, to take a virtual safari to an African wildlife conservancy. 

We have teamed up with Unmanned Innovation Inc to create specialist aerial drones to monitor and view wildlife on Ol Pejeta. Each drone can cover 50 miles, and fly for over one and a half hours. 

Unmanned Innovation Inc. will provide a customized drone using their proprietary autopilot system combined with a commercailly available plane developed for tornado research at the University of ColoradoUnmanned Innovation Inc. will provide a customized drone using their proprietary autopilot system combined with a commercailly available plane developed by UASUSA for tornado research at the University of Colorado.

The drones are fitted with a live streaming HD camera, which is gimbal mounted for 360o remote controlled viewing.

Sony HD Block camera with 20x optical zoom for up-close imagingSony HD Block camera with 20x optical zoom for up-close imaging

The rhino and other endangered species will be chipped with radio frequency ID (RFID) tags. Each chip gives an animal a unique identification number tied to our databases. 

Initial testing will be done using commercially available RFID tagsInitial testing will be done using commercially available RFID tags

Sensors on the drones can then recognize individual animals and use on-board GPS to store an image tagged with location coordinates. 

The drone and tagging system allows the conservancy to monitor the wellbeing of the wildlife, and to create a ton of data on animal movements and behavior.  The good news is that protecting wildlife means protecting tourism, and tourism mean more money for people in the local community, not just for a few poachers.

Phase one of the project is to get one drone out of the workshop in the US and up and working at Ol Pejeta in Kenya. If we can raise more then phase two is to extend the drone fleet and wildlife tagging program. After that, the future is to open up access for people all over the world. 

If you are interested in some facts and stats about the hardware, here are a few highlights:

  • Endurance: 90-120 mins
  • Flight Range: 75-125 km
  • Radio Range: 10-60 km 
  • Video Range: 10-40 km
  • Max Speed: 100 km/hr
  • RFID Coverage per flight: 4 to 12 square km (up to 3,000 acres)
  • Imaging Coverage per flight: approx 40 square km (10,000 acres)

 

Rewards

Check out our rewards where you can purchase an animal tag and have, for example, a rhino or a lion named after you. There are also caps, t-shirts, fleeces, limited edition wildlife aerial photos, and even the option to take remote control of the drone! 

Choice of species is on a first come, first served basis.Choice of species is on a first come, first served basis.

T-Shirt Options

 

RISKS AND CHALLENGES

The primary risk is a delayed project time-frame due to the time needed for export and operating licences. Where possible though we have ensured that our rewards can still be enjoyed during the project and not only contingent on specific finish times. The only reward where this is a direct risk is the remote operation of a drone. That is why we have put in such a late fulfilment date.

To address our challenges,we are combining the top minds from Ol Pejeta (with decades of conservation experience) with those from Unmanned Innovation Inc (a US-based company with expertise in developing unmanned aircraft).

The areas that we know will be a challenge will be: 
- maximizing the aircraft flight time and range (especially with the video and RFID reader active) 
- reading the RFID tags from the aircraft (as far from the animal as possible) 
- making the aircraft as simple to operate as possible 
- making the aircraft reliable for daily operations with minimal down time 
- Getting necessary approvals to use the airspace and radio frequencies from Kenyan authorities.

We will work together to address these issues through the development of software (specific to conservation), extensive flight testing, and continual improvement to the solution. Coverage will be extended through a combination of increasing the flight time of individual aircraft and adding additional aircraft to the fleet of UAVs that cover the total conservancy between them. As Ol Pejeta is on the equator with one of the longest days anywhere in the world, the use of solar panels and convective lift will be evaluated to extend flight times.

Sponsors of this project include:

Unmanned Innovation Inc (Newport Beach, CA) - Donating an osFlexPilot autopilot and Ground Station Interface

UASUSA (Boulder, CO) - Donating a TEMPEST aerial vehicle at cost

 

 

Team on This Campaign: