Hello to all. This is my first post and I am hoping to raise some awareness of how UAV's can help in the fight against poaching. There is an organisation called the International Anti Poaching Foundation (IAPF) which is dedicated to stopping the slaughter of endangered species in Africa. Some of the videos on the website made me sick, to think poachers kill these magnificent animals just for their tusks and horns that are used in useless Chinese remedies is nothing short of a disgrace and travesty on the human race.

These guys are just starting to use drones to track poachers and they need our help. They currently have 2 in the air and are in the process of preparing another 5. This is their own UAV program and is fully funded by donations. If you are truly interested in taking your drone skills to the ultimate level then please do what you can to help. Make no mistake about it, this is a war they are fighting. Hunting and capturing poachers and protecting wildlife is a full time job. The organisation is run by an ex SAS (Special Forces) soldier from the Australian Army. Some of the accounts from engagements with poachers are terrifying and usually end in shoot outs no different to a warfare situation. Rangers have been killed trying to protect these animals. The 2 drones they do have have saved their lives many times.

As an ex Royal Australian Air Force missile engineer I am just starting to help them out and I will do whatever I can. But as a newbie to the drone community I am here to get information and toss some ideas around, raise awareness and also see what equipment people are willing to donate or to help out in whatever way they can. There are 39000 members of this community, if 1 in 1000 can help out even in the smallest way you can contribute, the difference you will make will be greatly appreciated.

Flying a drone around the neighbourhood is fun but to lend our skills to this, to me is the ultimate use of this technology and my years of training in guided missile electronics and control systems. Please contribute anyway you can.

So its over to you guys and lets see what we can do.

Comments please

Best Regards


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  • @Ravi

    everything is easy to be saboteaged like jamming GPS

    Of course, you can even spoof if you are determined, but that doesn't mean the UAV cannot be designed to work in a comms degraded environment. All you need to do is get out of the range of the jammer without crashing and ignoring potential spoofed commands. Detecting GPS spoofing without access to the military signal is not so easy, but you can check if you receive satellites you should not receive given the current position and if some satellites are suspiciously strong. Of course, antennas aimed at the sky reduce the effectiveness of ground based jamming. Detecting jamming is easy, and depending on the receiver the signal can often be ignored (most of these simple GPS jammers send a continuous carrier), if you have sufficient bits in the AD conversion you can simply detect that it is not a gps signal and remove it. The most advanced jammers you find online typically transmit a sweeping pattern, which requires some care to prevent the carrier loop from unlocking, but it is possible. I have worked with a SDR GPS receiver where you could plug one of these sigarette lighter jammers in a meter away and it would degrade the position fix somewhat, but it would not lose lock (in theory, of course we did not jam, we simply connected a signal generator in line with the antenna to the receiver and a combiner). Another often employed technique is using a patch array, say 3x3 antennas. Simple analog combining with variable phase and amplitude gives a variable radiation pattern, so the antenna gain can be made very low in the direction of a jamming source. Optical flow seems a great backup option. Pure optical navigation is hard to do, but combined with an IMU it is relatively easy. The one thing you need to make optical flow that much simpler is a good height reference, eg from a pressure sensor.

    Securing control links should be easy, simply encrypt then and replace the CRC in the communication with a message authentication code. Jammed control is not an issue, since the drone can navigate on waypoints. Maybe it is useful to use a wide DSSS signal for control, this allows the comm link to be under the noise floor, making detection much harder. It also gives some interference rejection.

    The video link seems the biggest problem to me. It is relatively high powered, transmit from high in the sky giving good coverage, and receivable with off the shelf equipment. Simply receiving it shows you where the drone is looking. I would at least encrypt it. Analog scrambling is often weak. I would go digital. Since you are not flying FPV several seconds of latency is perfectly OK. Realtime digital video is difficult, but it is a solved problem if delay is tolerable.

  • It can be said of any violent criminal activity that the root cause is poverty or education or whatever. It can be said of any class of victims that there are other victims that may be worse off.  It can be said of any apprehension or identification or interdiction technology, especially a new one, that it has weak points or dangers. So therefore we should just wring our hands and philosophize instead of helping to work the kinks out of a kickass technology that certainly has the potential for making life miserable for these brutal scumbags? I don't think so. Anyone who has the guts to actually be out in the field engaging these unspeakable parasites deserves whatever they think will help them, without being second-guessed. Maybe in the end UAVs won't prove to be practical in this, but as long as they want to try I'm helping in any way I can. As Ravi says, if it saves one Rhino it's worth it. And by the way if I became aware of someone slaughtering 110 vultures "not far from me" they would have a lot more than a UAV to worry about.   

  • Moderator

    Wildlife management is how I started with UA. They have there uses that's for sure. Perhaps improving the lives of communities bordering reserves and education at the end user point might serve Rhinos better. The its a war metaphor just does not hold true. Its a poverty and school problem.

    There is a great deal of evidence to support the fact that most poaching money is being used to underwrite wars that the West has no interest in stopping. So stepping in to do that would help.

    If you think Rhinos are having it bad, start looking up lions and elephants. 

    Its a shame for a Rhino that the commodity they have can be carried by one man.

    I'm getting into full rant mode and that never helps. There are large military platforms doing the work and successfully in countries that have them.  One sUAS causing a wildfire after a LiPo incident could cause a great deal of damage. A recent high profile BS exercise here claimed to have zero instances of poaching whilst in operation. The reality was it was the worst month in that particular provinces history.

    One of your tiger researchers is currently here on a cat project that I am lucky enough to be flying for Ravi.

    Of course I am not against UA for wildlife management its why I am here.

  • everything is easy to be saboteaged like jamming GPS. that does not means we should give up. the technology of DIYdrones would also keep evolving. i am very positive. may be we would have inertial navigation one day. even if we loose 100 drones and are able to save one rhino it is worth every penny. in my country the threat is to tigers. we have to protect them. UAV's are quite effective even when flown in FPV mode without GPS navigation. FPV UAV's are very cost effective and can gather wonderful information. DIYdrones community must give it's contiribution for protection of wildlife otherswise all what we are doing is worthless.

  • Moderator

    You don't have a few hours to react. The poachers know what they want and where it is and how they are going to get out. Recently in the KNP one group walked right past a rhino and onto the one they wanted.

    A GPS is spectacularly simple to jam there have been a couple of high profile fails in South Africa recently for sUAS fantastic capabilities boasted and for the unmanned community here more harm than good achieved.

    You bet your bottom dollar somebody in the poaching chain of command is watching this and any other thread. No doubt thanking members for counter measure suggestions. 

    There are large platforms flying in key parks and they are proving effective. 

    Smaller platforms do have a place and that is in wildlife and habit management management. If you are keeping a better eye on the big picture you know better whats happening in your park. It can't be achieved on the cheap.

    As you are all no doubt aware a vulture is a mystical animal with great vision this means it can see into the future. What better then than to poison the Rhino/Elephant/Cow carcass as well and wait for the vultures to appear and then take their skulls and crush them into a powder for you to take when you want to see into the future. This trade exploded for the 2010 soccer world cup. 

    At a cow carcass not far from me a couple of weeks ago 110 vultures dies. Guess what vultures ares facing issues now as well.

    Another task for a daylight persistent platform.



  • we are facing a serious problem in my country where rhinos are being poached. i can do my contribution in the form of flying training in manual and auto mode, assembling aircrafts with autopilots. i can contribute airframes (without autopilot) which are very successful in autonomous flight when fitted with autopilot. there is no better and cost effective solution for anti poaching monitoring then diydrones. i will be soon providing UAV support to a rhino wildlife reserve in asia.

  • Hi Michael, 

    This X8 looks familiar to me... Did you Know Mani Riederich? Anyway your project looks interesting, I will like to know more details about it.

  • However, to your points about jamming, while i agree with you, i think this is a relatively minor risk. There is probably a limited time period before the poachers figure that out but i think there is time to make a difference.

    Not to mention any jamming system would have a limited range and these drones can fly a route with only gps info (i.e. harder to jam). So as long as the target information can be cached on the drone it could be downloaded upon landing. Information that is a couple hours old could still be incredibly helpful. Just need to set your search area wider to compensate for the potential information delay.
  • Bertold makes some really good points about tracking radios. That should be considered as perhaps a secondary mission for the drone. If i was a smart poacher i would not be using a radio, so i would think flir would be the primary aquisition strategy. But it would be nice to locate those folks who are not as smart beyond visual range. Any radio should be able to be detected at distances that exceed its normal effective transmission distance.
  • I have a particular interest in search and rescue type applications of UAS. This organization is doing search and, I assume, apprehend. Very similar means to slightly different ends. I would love to help.
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