The situation of the rhinoceros in South Africa is disastrous; with data from Save the Rhino showing that the illegal poaching of rhino has increased by 9000% between 2007 and 2014, it is estimated that only 18,000 South White rhino and only 5,500 black rhinos still live in the wild.
and stopping poachers before they capture the rhinoceros and brutally mutilate in the attempt to remove their horns is difficult and devastating for the rhinoceros; often they are mutilated by poachers while they hit the face of the rhino with axes.
Raglan, a New Zealand drone company, Aeronavics, has developed a drone that they brought to South Africa on Saturday 30 July 2018. assist in the detection of poachers.
Aeronavic's director Linda Bulk and Hadley Boks-Wilson, flight engineer, were approached by Sarah Jones of charitable organization for conservation of rhinoceros & Tusk and Horn Wildlife Trust & # 39; 18 months earlier, after her own trip to South Africa.
She shared with Bulk and Boks-Wilson her time with the world famous wildlife vet and rhino specialist. William Fowlds, who has worked diligently in the search to help the rhinoceros in their plight
"Both Rob (Rob Brouwer, co-director) and I were deeply moved by her story of what was going on in South Africa, and the horrible images that she showed us inflicted the unimaginable suffering. "The Bulk told Waikato Story.
The team at Aeronavic worked on the development of a drone that they thought would help Fowlds, making different prototypes before they would opt for a design that they thought would work would do.
The drone, a quadcopter that can fly a maximum of 45 minutes at a time and is resistant to strong winds that snip off the South African coast, was called "Rhino Bavi & # 39 ;.
"It can easily fly a few miles without losing contact with the radio and video controls, and carries a normal camera and a thermal camera side by side. It has various safety functions and can be pre-programmed to fly autonomous missions to support daily patrols, and also flow manually to where necessary, "Bulk explains.
On arrival in South Africa, Bulk and Boks-Wilson trained and performed training flights with the Amakhala anti-poaching unit (APU), in the Fowlds family game reserve.
" The APU team already had experience with smaller drones" Linda said: "which made it a lot easier to train them, and they were very professional, competent and dedicated. was a pleasure to work with them, we have run different flights every day, manually and pre-programmed, including night flights and long distances, "continues Bulk.
While Bulk and her team had originally hoped to make a drone with night vision, this was not because the resources were limited.
"We have identified a number of potential improvements and will undoubtedly identify more as the team puts the system into use in the coming months, but as it is already a useful tool."
"We now have to strategize how it can be made feasible to deploy this technology on a large scale."
The next steps of Aeronavics are to further improve the drone and to work out how the development lower costs can be scaled up.
" The system that we have delivered is much more powerful and suitable for the purpose than the smaller, cheaper drones that you see on the market in bulk, but this entails costs. further improve, and b) reduce costs Even as a non-profit organization, the costs are currently too high, perhaps we should look for a bit of an industrial collaboration to achieve this, "she says.
Bulk invites interested parties to contact her through Aeronavics to develop cooperation and partnerships.