The Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge is to design low cost UAVs that can be deployed over the rugged terrain of Kruger, equipped with sensors able to detect and locate poachers, and communications able to relay accurate and timely intelligence to Park Rangers. UAVs that governments use in warfare might provide some of these capabilities, but Kruger does not have the runways, crews, maintenance facilities, and billions of dollars needed for such operations. The Challenge is to design aircraft that can be launched in the bush, operate for hours over the rugged terrain, detect and locate poachers, communicate over existing commercial infrastructures, and recover in the bush -- all for under $3,000.
The Challenge is created to stimulate innovation among bright people from around the globe to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. The objectives seem daunting to governments and large corporations, but they are in reach to students, hobbyists, innovators and many more due to revolutions in additive manufacturing and smart phone technologies. Makers use 3D printers to fabricate aircraft structures out of inexpensive polymers. They automate aircraft with inexpensive computers made from smart phone components, and they stream video and other data from the aircraft using TCP/IP protocols over 4G networks at very low cost. What they need is a Challenge to focus their efforts and a success to inspire their next endeavors. With the help of Makers around the world we can stop the poaching and save the rhinos. Then we can proceed to the next problem.