Saturday, August 9, 2014

India to Use Aerial Drones in Protecting its Forests and Wildlife

An aerial drone in action

It has recently been reported that India will be using unmanned aerial vehicles known commonly as drones to protect its forests and wildlife. The purpose of these drones will be to oversee poaching, track wildlife, and even calculate the population of tigers. Scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) are coming up with an array of such aerial vehicles which are being custom-made ingeniously to accommodate different types of forest landscapes in India. According to K. Ramesh, a wildlife scientist from the WII who is in charge of this project, the manufacturing and modifying of drones would allow movement towards the second generation of technology for overseeing and surveillance of the wildlife. He further added that the drones will be profitable and can navigate areas that are inaccessible to people. The scientists are developing a report for initiating drone surveillance in ten wildlife-rich areas across India under a joint partnership with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These areas include the foothills of the Himalayas, high-altitude Himalayas, central India, coastal regions of the Sundarbans, Andaman Islands, etc. Although the drone monitoring project is scheduled to be implemented in 2015, it has received positive feedback. For example, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, the head of wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, the drones would be useful for ill-equipped forest guards. The drones were successfully tested in Kaziranga and Panna National Parks, and will be taken to a whole new level in poaching surveillance, wildlife tracking, and counting of tiger populations.

It is amazing how the use of aerial drones has been proving to be effective in wildlife monitoring and the ongoing battle against poaching. Places like Africa have already begun using these unmanned aerial vehicles to oversee poaching activities in areas inaccessible by humans and monitor its wildlife. Now, India is stepping in to conduct the use of drones in the battle to protect its local wildlife and habitats. In addition to monitoring poaching and wildlife, aerial drones may also be used to calculate numbers of animals such as tigers especially in areas where the use of camera traps turned out to be ineffective. There are several advantages to using aerial drones in the field of wildlife conservation. For example, their movement can be controlled through a GPS system, they can be put on autopilot mode and dispatched as far as forty to fifty kilometers deep into a forest. In addition, they can record images and videos and broadcast them on an actual time basis. Furthermore, drones can travel at a speed of forty kilometers per hour which means they can be used for approximately 40-50 minutes. That is, they can be brought back to a base station, recharged, and resent back several times in a single day. Lastly, the drones are said to be cheap and a single unit would only cost Rs. 3-6 lakh. With India's drone monitoring project underway, the battle against poaching will be taken to another level in which wildlife authorities may have the advantage in hunting down poachers and conservationists could have the possibility of obtaining more accurate data concerning wildlife abundance. This can be seen when drones may be used to conduct nighttime surveillance which would not only reveal poachers and their hideouts, but also uncover elusive animals like the snow leopard and the red panda which are rarely seen in the wild. Overall, this project would prove to be an exceptional breakthrough in India's conservation movement and hopefully inspire other nations around the world to implement similar projects in their individual battles against poaching and other wildlife crimes affecting their local wildlife.

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