Tanzania turns to anti-poaching drones to help endangered wildlife

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A Bathawk anti-poaching drone during field-testing

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As is the story throughout much of the protected parklands across Africa, endangered species in Tanzania are under serious threat from poaching. So following in the footsteps of other conservationists across the continent, Tanzania-based Bathawk Recon has field-tested surveillance drones to better protect the local wildlife, with results indicating these eyes in the sky can seriously bolster anti-poaching efforts in the country's nature reserves.

Bathawk Recon has joined with Tanzania's National Parks Authority (TANAPA) and US firm Aviation Unmanned to explore the potential of anti-poaching drones, particularly in the ongoing effort to protect the country's elephant and rhino species. Across five days of testing, the team put an American-made gas-powered drone called the Superbat DA 50 into the sky above the Mkomazi National Park.

This involved monitoring the effectiveness of the aircraft's sensors, range, endurance and ability to support rangers on the ground. Equipped with high definition digital and infrared cameras, the Superbat was able to detect people on the ground, track them through shrubs and zoom in on game from an altitude of 15,000 ft (4,570 m). It also remained in the air for an impressive eight hours and performed at a distance of 30 km (19 mi) away. Bathawk says that through the five days of testing the Superbat hit all of its performance targets.

The company is also testing two other models of drones, one of which has been trialled in the Selous Game Reserve, one of the world's largest protected parks. The vast 44,800 km sq (17,300 mi sq) of land has a high percentage of forest and rough terrain offering convenient cover for poachers. Bathawk says that this provides a useful testbed for the technology, because if it can be proven effective in this unique landscape it will bode well for wide-spread deployment.

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