I guess that is a good way to describe what we are trying to do. The UAV will do boarder patrols and also search when a poacher is running from rangers. We are working on a tracking system where the UAV will automatically begin to loiter around a contact, once identified and continue to track them as they move. It will relay GPS co-ordinates and camera footage to the control room who will dispatch rangers to apprehend.
Since you have historical data of spoors and animal deaths, perhaps you can extract reasonably accurate predictions of possible hotspots. Not sure of details but statisticians and data analysts might be able to help. Also, how long does a poacher group take to leave the area? If a large enough proportion of your high value animals are tagged and the alarm is raised immediately when they exhibit strange behaviour, it might be possible that you have an increased chance of catching them red handed. Since tagging all of them is most likely not going to happen, perhaps tagging a few key individuals in a group will give you a heads up if something has disturbed the group. Then, you send a drone to investigate while preparing a ground team for a possible follow up. Perhaps even tagging other animals that will either react to a death (scavengers) or to human presence can also give you hints that something is afoot. Basically, animals are awesome at moving and reacting to their environment and using them might help you more than brute strength high tech.
The poachers will enter in groups of two or three. They will hide for a day or two while tracking the animals and will then shoot a rhino and start making their exit. It is incredibly difficult to track them from the ground and also the herds are spread out over the reserve and move around. Tagging is being considered but you still have to get to where the herd is and that takes too much time. The UAVs will patrol the vunrable boarders to try stop the poachers getting in and assist in their apprehension as soon as they are detected.
Thank you sir. And what about apprehension? If a poacher is detected, but apprehension teams can’t catch them because they are so elusive, what’s the point?
If they start moving off the reserve the drone is designed to dye bomb them but they can also be apprehended outside the reserve by other authorities as long as they know where they are likely to exit. Poachers have more rights then the rangers so the drone cannot engage them with the aim to incapacitate them.
The drones won’t work in large expanses like the Kruger but they can be effective in the smaller reserves.
I still find the constellation somehow irritating. Instead of addressing the drivers which motivate the local people to go poaching a lot of money is spend to buy or develop military equipment to hunt does people. Even more irritating would it be if the people hunting the locals with hightech are white westerners.
What would you do if you are to poor to send your children to school and provide a save environment for your family? 
We are lucky that we are living under conditions that we had the chance for a good education and can afford to value biodiversity and animal rights (still not many do that) instead of fighting for our living.
I think the motives of those people (which are related to secure their basic needs) provide a far better justification for what they are doing than the justification we have for killing and torturing billion animals and destroying nature. If you are not vegan you have a share in a industrial torturing and killing of animals which is morally far less (i.e. not) justifiable and does not bring suffering to thousands but to billions of animals.
I find it also interesting that although it has been already shown that drones do not perform as good as rangers, it is still the goal to replace a working system which brings employment into the region by a systems which redirects the money towards western companies instead.
Looking forward for the shitstorm
I’m looking forward to a report how successful this solution was as well. Are there any reports for the automatic detection towers?
Tobias the demand is driven from outside Africa and the money is more than the poachers can make at other jobs. Drones have failed because we tried to bring in drones that were not designed for Africa. Technology has improved enough that a drone designed for Africa may not be feasible and effective. The rangers are fighting a losing battle and are losing this war.
I like the dye bomb tactic. Sounds dangerous though. That has to be some very cool flying to do such a thing. Keep up the fight. The animals are victims here. So sad for such human ignorance about animal parts.
Another front on this war would be re-education towards the consumers of such things. Lessen the demand and the supply will go away. Reminds me of the war on drugs. Each country ought to concentrate on the buyers, not the suppliers. If there was no drug demand, then there would be no supply. Constantly going after the suppliers is only half the solution.
If you can watch this, it gives you a small insight into the extent of the problem and why its so difficult to fight Stroop Movie
According to the movie Stroop, much of the poaching takes place on nights when there is sufficient moonlight as the poachers avoid using any kind of torch lights.
If there is so much ambient moonlight, is it not possible to use low light cameras instead of
thermal cameras for detection ?
Yes and no, the poachers are now coming in regardless of the moon phase. We are combining low light and Thermal cameras but the low light cameras don’t always have enough separation between the poacher and the background for the AI to identify them. The ideal solution is one that can detect a poacher who is almost invisible to camera.
I hope you are a vegan. I don’t want to play down the suffering of those animals, compared to the industrial torture and killing of animals for meat, eggs and milk and the environmental impact (including loss of biodiversity) it is neglectible.
I think before most of us throw stones and bombs on those people we should start to change our own behavior. And I guess most of you do not do that but do prefere to fantasize about deploying military equipment against those people. I think that is ignorant and disgusting.
I think the aggression should focus on the people behind the local pachers.
This is profoundly ignorant. The race to stop poaching in Africa is not to stop the killing of individuals or for the welfare of the animals (at least not primarily), it is to stop us losing hundreds of millions of years of biological and behavioural evolution that we can never get back. This has nothing - nada, zilch - to do with the industrial farming of domestic mutant species that we create artifically by the billions for food.
You may say so, but I think that depends what your moral framework is. I think that the suffering or the luck of the individual beeing is the only important moral measure.
The question for me is whether the extinction of these species will cause enormous suffering or not. If not or if they will be anyhow extinct by other causes such as climate change or agriculture etc. than I do not see a difference to the suffering of other animals. I do not think that diversity has a moral value as such which makes the suffering of these “aryan” species more important than that of “mutant species”.
And I think it is always wise to remember that I come from a country where the same development was made in the past and where only very limited willingness to protect the environment does exist. I think you can advise the people not to do the same errors and help them to create an environment where such thinks do happen less often. But hunting them with military equipment feels very wrong. This effort should focus on the criminals behind those local people.
And finally I fear that the drivers to apply these technologies are the interest to earn money while very limited interest exists in the effectivity of the sold equipment - as written in the (German) article above and as the experience with the application of drones has shown. And of course it has been written that this drone and this area is totally different - but up to now that is only a claim and not based on experience. I still think that a simple blanket which covers the poachers during the crossing of the airplane or the bombing will make all efforts worthless.
You are not incorrect. But remember that those poachers aren’t ignorant either. They know what they are doing. Assuming that they are victims of some kind of shadow puppeteer is downplaying their personal culpability in what they do. The vast majority of their peers do not do what they do, just as the vast majority of people in countries run by drug dealers do not run drugs either.
My point is that they are criminals, even within their own culture. Its not like they get back to their villages and are hailed as heroes for trafficking in animal parts. They are doing it for money and yes, they COULD do something else and still survive just fine. They choose to break the law and they choose to depart from village norms - just as criminals in any society chooses.
But why doesn’t or why shouldn’t the local community enforce the laws/norms then?
And all Germans etc. also know that their behavior destroys the environment. Does this “survive just fine” mean that they can live a life as I/we can/could?
Whatever ‘values’ and and ‘ideals’ you may hold from your bizarre rants, this is not the place to air them. Go join peta, or the secret police state - stop trolling people here who are trying to make a difference in the world against the senseless slaughter of defenceless wild animals - our shared global precious heritage that can never be reclaimed once it’s gone. And it’s going, faster by faster, day by day. Please, go away and leave the people here alone to continue discussing the very difficult task ahead of them.
Ok, I think I made it clear what I think andeven if mmy writing might be inappropriate I’m willing to accept arguments against my position. I don’t think this is an argument. And I have problems to not speak out if I think somethink is wrong. BTW I never wanted to say that it is wrong to protect those animals. I only want to rise concerns about the way it is done.
Beside my moral arguments I also raised some technical concerns. I even if you don’t want to discuss moral issues these concerns are an allowed topic here.
So what about a blanket, won’t it be an effective measure against getting detected by the uav?
Graham - an impressive fleet for important work.
How do we support your efforts?
DM me (I’m new on here so can’t DM) - I happen to South African, in Jozi (and Madikwe) in May, and work at a mid-size drone company.
Loss of species means change of habitat, mapping of the new grasslands and changes where Rhinos have been entirely lost has already started. As to tracking animals we do that from fish to rhino, if you discover something happening there really is nobody to call close most of the time. Conservation tasks bought me to RPAS 15 years ago, I have seen mucho BS come and go. But there are some really positive things happening. Sadly for Rhino they are worth too much money.