Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Students use drone to save the rhino

13 Oct 2014 16:18

Students of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA), the University of Amsterdam (UvA), VU University Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are working together to develop a drone that can be used to detect poachers and rhinos in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Students of the Dutch UAS Team tested the image recognition system at Beekse Bergen Safari Park last Saturday.

HvA E-technology students Aran Dokoupil and Elmar van Rijnswou were doing an internship at the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands (NLR) when Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge organised a competition against rhino poaching. This prompted the two HvA students to form the Dutch UAS Team together with four students from the UvA and TU Delft. The Dutch UAS Team is developing a drone to combat rhino poaching.

Hunting for rhinos

Student Aran explains what the Dutch UAS Team is working on: “Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to 60% of the world’s rhino population. Unfortunately, in recent years, many rhinos have been killed for their horns, which are worth a lot of money. We are building a system that helps the park rangers to protect the rhino. Our idea is to have several drones flying over Kruger National Park. These drones contain both a normal camera and a thermal imaging camera, which film the ground. A computer analyses the images and automatically detects poachers and rhinos. The system then alerts the nearest park rangers.” Kruger National Park is half the size of the Netherlands, and poachers are difficult to detect. Drones have a huge range and can therefore be a great help to the park rangers.

Testing in safari park

The students are currently developing the drone: “We are working on the control system, how to fly the drone autonomously and the radio system.” Last Saturday, the students tested the image recognition system over Beekse Bergen Safari Park. Because they were not permitted to fly a drone over Beekse Bergen Safari Park, the students used a helium balloon with a diameter of four metres and a normal camera and thermal imaging camera suspended from it. “We need to gather images of rhinos and people on the ground to use as practice material, so that the algorithms will be able to identify poachers and rhinos,” explains Aran. The students will head to South African from 31 October, to carry out further testing with the drone in Kololo Game Reserve.

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