airshepherdpoachingPoaching is a $19 billion industry in Africa. It’s a big problem with a huge ecological impact, but it’s a very difficult one to solve. There’s too much ground to cover to do it with actual humans, but there is now a team in Africa doing this with drones. Obviously it’s good because it’s helping to save animals, but the tech angle is awesome.

First, they use big data processing back in Maryland to predict where the poachers will be. Then they send out UAVs with ~2 hour flight times to monitor the area. If poachers are detected, an enforcement team is sent out to stop them before they kill any animals. A ground team is there to rotate batteries and they have a 3D printer so they can fabricate just about anything they need to keep the planes aloft. The system works. In the last six months, they have completely shut down poaching in one of the parks where they were previously seeing 12-19 deaths/month.

The operation costs $500K/year for just a single team. It’s not cheap, but it’s important. They’ve set up an IndieGogo campaign to fund their work.

There are so many negative stories in the press about “drones”. It’s nice to see a good story come through.