Game of Drones: Why did the drone program to protect rhinos in the Kruger Park fail?
In the last four
years, poachers have continued to slaughter almost 4,500 rhinoceroses in
where the vast majority of these emblematic animals live. The prized horn is
torn from their roots and left to bleed until they die or a patrol arrives in
time to stop their pain with euthanasia. The dimensions of barbarism had forced
the South African government to take all kinds of measures to try to stop the
tragedy, which will lead the rhinos to extinction in a decade. A couple of
years ago appeared the drones with the promise to solve the problem after
claiming useful for almost anything. But the much publicized drone surveillance
program at the time did not save the rhinos in the
which is home to between 7,000 and 8,300 specimens.
"We use unmanned aircraft that can fly at night and find poachers before they kill, it works, it's proven, poaching stops," Air Shepherd, a company associated with this project, said in its advertisement. However, Mark McGill, manager of technical operations of the National Parks of South Africa (SANParks) had to cancel the program because the drone test period was "very disappointing", since according to the data obtained by responsible of projects of SANParks, Tumelo Matjekane the unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by the South African company UDS equipped with thermal cameras detected all kinds of infrared signals including rocks, fires, minerals and animals that have their nocturnal habits in a reserve that has almost 20,000 km2.
And where were they wrong then ?, the answer is that drones produce thousands of data bits per flight and what SANParks project managers did not take into account, are two factors, firstly they should have been equipped with long endurance drones scope and infrared equipment with filters and secondly did not include a cloud software capable of processing the huge torrent of data they would receive as well as not train the observers to distinguish the different infrared emissions that were generated on their screens. The program, launched by the Peace Parks Foundation, was financed with large donations from the Dutch and Swedish lotteries of around two million euros together. Of course the recriminations were not expected from one side and the other, the problem is that having implemented so recklessly an excellent technology such as drones the population of rhinos has paid and continues to pay the consequences of a lot of murderers and a a bunch of ignorant criminals who attribute to the horns of these alleged animals "healing properties" justifying this rogue trade.