Infrared-capable drones are hunting poachers

New drone missions in South Africa will protect elephants and rhinos from poachers

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An anti-poaching drone from Bathawk Recon.

So this is pretty awesome. Poachers in South Africa are being hunted with infrared drones.

Drone use is on the rise among law enforcement, conservation groups, and first-responders. The Lindbergh Foundation's Air Shepherd program was developed to protect elephants and rhinos from poaching by spotting the bad guys from the air.

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The program just officially launched in South Africa with an event featuring Golden Globe-winning actress Maura Tierney and sponsored by South African Airways.

Air Shepherd, whose operations have been covered here before, sends drone teams through months of extensive training and are deployed into areas known for illegal poaching activities. Using intelligence from many sources, infrared-capable drones fly silently at night when poachers operate. Once poachers are spotted on screens in the operation vehicles, rangers are sent to the area to intercept them.

It would be even cooler if the drones shot big nets, but it's a start.

The Air Shepherd drones offer more protection to rangers who, while patrolling at night, are exposed to a high level of danger from armed poachers and wild animals.

The program is new, but early tests have suggested that when Air Shepherd drones are flying, poaching stops. Something about being stealthily hunted by a technologically superior predator must be off-putting for poachers.

"We are thrilled that our drone teams are fully operational," explains John Petersen, chairman of the board of the Lindbergh Foundation. "The poaching of wildlife has hit record highs and we have come to a critical juncture where action must be taken. Fortunately, many other African countries recognize this and have reached out to the Lindbergh Foundation with interest in implementing Air Shepherd pilot programs."

Developed by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, the Air Shepherd program hopes that drones and data analytic capabilities can protect rhinos and elephants in Africa.

Using sophisticated three-aircraft operating teams that work with rangers on the ground, drones are flown over high probable poaching areas, allowing rangers to intercept suspects before a poaching incident can take place.

For more information, or if you want to donate to a pretty cool organization doing great things with tech, please visit www.lindberghfoundation.org or www.AirShepherd.org.

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