By Aislinn Laing
Circling 600 feet above the ground, its thermal camera trained on the scrubland below, the drone keeps silent watch for its target.
When a telltale white blur appears on screen, the aircraft will drop closer to earth to confirm the identity of its quarry before summoning armed backup.
This is not the militant strongholds of Afghanistan or Pakistan but the African bush. The target is the critically-endangered black rhino and those illegally hunting it.
As the demand for rhino horn soars, driven by buyers in Asia for its reputed medicinal properties, so too does the sophistication of the poachers.
Faced with hunting gangs using helicopters, night-vision goggles and high-powered rifles, those protecting the rhinos are also being forced to up their game.
This weekend, The Daily Telegraph witnessed the first flight of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone, in pursuit of suspected poachers in South Africa.
The small, lightweight, battery-powered Falcon drones can be launched by hand in minutes and fly over a range of five miles for up to 90 minutes. Fitted with high-resolution infrared cameras, they can pick out elephants, rhinos and lions as well as anyone that might be tracking them. More....