Drones are not just for watching, killing and generally making people feel uneasy, they can also be put to much good use.
A San Francisco startup has just announced it has conducted successful trials using them to monitor poachers and protect endangered species in Africa.
The Airware control system consisting of two fixed-wing aircraft and one flexible wing drone was tested at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Company CEO, Jonathan Downey, said: “They were designed to operate completely autonomously, well out of the line of sight of the pilot.
“Using drones allows them to spend a lot more time in the air, seeing a lot more detail, and for far cheaper than using traditional aircraft or jeeps.
The drones are equipped with infra-red camera’s for night-time viewing and optical for the day.
Downey said: “Using infrared we can easily spot a campfire being used by poachers, who often come in to the park at night.
“The level of detail is such that we can see an elephant’s trunk change from white to black after he takes a drink of cold water.”
Downey is keen to demonstrate that drone technology can be used for positive purposes and not just the military applications we tend to hear about.
He told Techcrunch: “I think the more people that see these, the more comfortable they’ll be with someone coming to their house and doing a rooftop inspection using a small drone.”
Unfortunately, and despite being pleased with the results of the trial, bosses at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy will not be adapting the technology.
The trial was paid for using funds raised on Indiegogo but they will not be paying for further use.
It’s not all bad though, the park provides a huge testing ground for drone technology not available in the US outside of a few heavily regulated sites.