Could Drones Help Prevent Rhino, Elephant Extinction In Africa?

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Written by Dana Sanchez

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFx4Z9_Fovc

A new method of using drones has proven effective in stopping poachers in Africa via computers thousands of miles away, according to NBCNews.

Unmanned aircraft weighing less than 50 pounds that are guided by big data are a new, high-tech response to an environmental crisis.

Air Shepherd, a nonprofit organization created by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, isn’t the first to supply Africa’s game rangers with drones but it has something that others do not. It has Prof. Thomas Snitch of the University of Maryland and his invention — a tool that analyzes data and predicts where poachers will strike next, according to a report by the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association.

Drones can monitor a lot more ground than rangers. Armed with infrared cameras, the drones fly at night, acting like shepherds in the sky to stop poachers.

Humans don’t decide where to fly the drones — computers do. Computers process data to predict where the animals will be each night, Snitch told NBCNews. And where there are elephants and rhinos, there are often poachers.

Nearly 1,300 rhinos were poached in Africa in 2014, up from 62 killed in 2007, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In 2014, more than 20,000 elephants died at the hands of poachers, says the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Air Shepherd hopes to stop the longtime problem of poaching and make it easier for rangers to find poachers across Africa.

Test flights have proven promising and Air Shepherd, in partnership with the Lindbergh Foundation, is crowd funding to get more drones in the air.

Snitch and his colleagues at the University of Maryland have been researching and testing the drones and their new application. “In the past six months where we’ve been operating in Africa, we’ve arrested a lot of poachers,” Snitch said.