The deployment
of drones

In recent years, various new technologies have been used to combat natural crime. DNA analysis, hidden cameras, GPS trackers in the handset and drones are implemented to track and arrest poachers. In 2016 the first newspaper articles were published about the use of drones at poaching. With the media hype around the drones it is difficult not to go along with it. But how effective is the drone deployment against poaching?

How are drones applied?

A drone is an unmanned aircraft and is often controlled remotely. Currently only the controlled drones are allowed in the airspace. Autonomous drones cannot currently be used due to civil liability issues. Drones were previously used for military applications, but nowadays drones are also used for police work and fire brigade. Drones are nowadays equipped with good cameras and can therefore take high-resolution photos, produce video images, maps of areas. Drones can also contain night vision equipment or thermal imaging cameras, which increases deployability. Fully equipped drones are expensive. To use drones against poaching, computer analysis is used to identify poachers, night vision to detect poachers, and algorithms are used to predict where poachers will strike. It is, however, a search for a drones with the right programming and robustness.

Disadvantages of drones as a support tool?

Concerns about the use and abuse of drones have led to a ban in certain areas. Namibia has banned the use of drones across all national parks. In Kenya you can only fly a drone if you have permission from the Ministry of Defense. However, the drone also has technical limitations.

  • Limited battery life.
  • Drones must remain within a certain range of the user, and are therefore limited in distance.
  • A malfunction in the system or unfavorable environmental conditions such as gusts of wind can cause a drone to crash. The drone and equipment can be damaged or broken.
  • Hilly terrain or weather conditions make it difficult to operate.
  • The drone is as good as its pilot. You need well-trained pilots to fully use the drone.
  • Drone kites can be bribed to provide information about rhino's whereabouts.
  • Use of drones is new and there is a lack of fact-based application of drones.
  • Thermo graphical recordings do not make sense at very hot ambient temperatures.
  • Monitoring via a drone takes a lot of time and is exhausting for the pilot.

Are drones effective in combating poaching?

No research can be found on the effectiveness of the use of drones. Several articles do appear that the contribution of a drone for reducing poaching is zero. In March 2019, "dronewatch" came out with an article in which Graham Dyer, an experienced expert, made a statement about the use of drones. This describes that drones have a negligible effect on poaching. For example, a tracking dog team managed to arrest eighteen poachers in a week, while the drone team observed fewer than 8 poachers during a two-year period of night flying, which did not lead to a detention.

The saving of rhinos is due to a good foundation, perseverance and hard work. Probably no piece of technology will solve this very complex problem. Everyone is looking for the innovator who is making a breakthrough in the fight against poaching.