Every year thousands of helpless animals are illegally hunted, bringing them one step closer to extinction by poachers. But with new technology, these crimes can be stopped. The animal's potential savior—drones.
Without the fear of getting caught, poachers go through an obscenely simple process. First, they jump or cut through wire fences of protected areas meant to keep poachers out and animals in. They come bearing high caliber rifles and axes stained crimson. Once their prey is located—be it a rhino or an elephant—the poachers sneak up behind the animal and come in for the kill. A beautiful creature falls limp, never to see another sunrise. Mercilessly, the poachers approach the bloody corpse and cut off the animals' one defense against this cruel world, their tusks. Without a sound, the poachers slip away to go sell their new “found” treasures.
However, the Wildlife Conversation UAV Challenge aims to prevent this tragedy. UAV's or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” are drones, which experts hope could be used to keep endangered species safe. In fact, if the drone project is instigated, the story would play out in a completely different manner. The poachers would get through the wire fence. Unbeknownst to the poachers, a drone would be lurking in the shadows. Upon approaching the herd of animals the drone responds to intruders by shining an extremely bright light in the poachers faces while simultaneously sending a distress signal to the nearest park ranger station. Rangers jump in a helicopter and head to the scene of the crime. When the rangers arrive, poachers have either already fled because of the drone or get arrested for the crime of poaching.
This is a seemingly great plan, so many are left to wonder why drones have not yet been mass produced for the protection of animals. The answer is simple: this is only an idea. Two things must happen for this dream to become reality. The first is acceptance and growth; we need the world to see drones as an asset that can be improved with science and brain power. The second need is more tangible: money, around six to eight billion dollars of the stuff, could help in the production and spread of the drones.
Even though drones are expensive, in comparison to the 10 billion dollars spent annually on illegal global animal trade, they may be well worth the cost.