International drone challenge to combat poaching comes to Amakhala Game Reserve
November 21, 2013
The Wildlife Conservation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Challenge (WCUAVC) is a worldwide competition to design a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone, specifically to combat Rhino poaching in South Africa’s National Parks and game reserves.
The Challenge, and the winning drone’s goal is to provide a tool that will, at an affordable price, be able to help in the fight against Rhino poaching, by applying the latest UAV technology to the unique environment that is the African bush. The typical African challenges of power supply, communication infrastructure and geographical adversities need to be considered also.
Kashmir Robotics, a leading U.S. robotics company, is hosting the challenge, which will foster innovation and invention in the design, fabrication, and utilization of unmanned aircraft to assist with counter poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. It calls on students, hobbyists, academics, and corporations to co-operate in a design, build, fly and compute challenge that emphasises the integration of sensors, embedded systems, and communications in a robust and high endurance aircraft.
Apart from the prestige and publicity, the challenge will reward the winners with total cash prizes of $65,000and an all-inclusive 10-day trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa for five members of the winning team. The finals are scheduled for August 2014, in the Amakhala Game Reserve.
To date, 51 teams from 15 countries have entered and the leadership team is currently visiting South Africa to establish the requirements and particular problems the entrants will have to consider. This they will do in conjunction with General Jooste of SANParks in the Kruger, and with Reserve Protection Agency in the Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape.
Brian Bailey, co founder of the Reserve Protection Agency, and one of the partners in the Challenge said of the visitors and the competition: “The worlds leading scientists, students, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and innovators are getting together to create the best UAV solution to save endangered species from extinction. The aim of the Challenge was to create an awareness of what poachers are doing to our precious wildlife, and to energize the scientific community worldwide to apply their technological expertise to a very real and urgent problem – the wholesale slaughter of our Rhino population. And all this at a reasonable price!”
The fact finding leadership team currently in South Africa include Princess Aliya Pandolfi, CEO of Kashmir Robotics, Justin Leto, co founder of NovaLabs, representatives of Aurora Flight Sciences, and Casper Van Zyl of Global Unmanned Systems. They are currently in the Kruger National Park, and will arrive in the Eastern Cape on November 22nd where they will be hosted at Hlosi Lodge in the Amakhala Game Reserve.
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