Conservation just got a tech upgrade. Airware, the company behind the next generation of autopilot platform commercial drones, is putting its gadgets to good use by observing endangered species in Kenya—and the poachers out to get them.
Although this isn’t the first time unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been considered for wildlife conservation, Airware is breaking ground after a two-week test at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Each drone can fly at up to an hour at a time and utilizes infrared technology to scan the 90,000-acre game reserve. The drones simultaneously record video that is sent directly to researchers on the ground.
"We were very successful in all the things we wanted to demonstrate—spotting animals, identifying animals from the air day and night, being able to spot people...real-time digital communications sent to the ground," Airware CEO Jonathan Downey tells Fast Company.
Each drone costs upwards of $20,000, which remains the biggest obstacle to overcome before the UAVs are buzzing around with the lions, tigers, and rhinos of sub-Saharan Africa.