When people hear the word “drones,” many these days think immediately of the Obama Administration’s large-scale, controversial use of drones overseas in the ongoing war on terror. However, most probably have not considered that these unmanned aircraft can be applied to solving other problems too. A group of students in the United Kingdom show the world how.
“Our proposal intends to develop lightweight and autonomous UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for observing in two main sectors: wildlife conservation, and search and rescue,” Idriss Sisaid, a student from the United Kingdom’s Cranfield University, said in a statement.
Sisaid and two other students, Enrique Garcia Bourne and Edward Anastassacos, are using the high-resolution imaging technology for space telescopes in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to assist park officials in their ongoing battle against wildlife poachers. For their creative efforts, the trio was awarded the top honor in this year’s Space Solutions University Challenge, a program administered by the European Space Agency’s Technology Transfer
Called the Horus project, the effort uses imaging optics developed for mapping curved image fields to produce realtime aerial images with greater responsiveness at lower cost compared with what is currently available. Combining this technology with UAVs may facilitate the monitoring of vast areas for threats to endangered species such as the rhinoceros and elephants.
“ESA patent 561 presented us with a platform technology to produce inherently high-quality, non-distorted and wide-angle images,” said Enrique. “When applied to UAVs, this allows far greater coverage and improved performance when compared to UAVs with more traditional cameras.”
Comprehensive wildlife conservation requires constant surveillance of large expanses of land. Using traditional methods involving human personnel is costly and limited. Horus is poised to directly and substantially address these current barriers to protecting the world’s most endangered wildlife.