By Tom Spendlove
South Africa has around 20,000 rhinoceros, roughly 80 percent of the world's population. A rhinoceros horn can net up to $300,000, and in the last few years poachers have ramped up their rhino hunting to collect horns and turn illegal profit.
Team AREND is an arm of the non-profit Wildlife Protection Solutions. The team is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a drone to fight against poaching. AREND is made up of students from South Africa, Germany, Finland and the United States. They are led by Dr. Jean Koster from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Team AREND's mission is to design, build, operate and fly an unmanned aerial system of an entirely new design. The entire project is being undertaken as part of the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge, competing against 120 other design teams around the world.
Drones have mission specifications of a gross weight less than 55 lbs, an endurance goal of 120 minute flights, landing precision goal of a 30 foot radius, and must satisfy all safety requirements from the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
There are goals outlined for communication - the range goal is 20 km - and camera image quality - 5 centimeter line separation at 300 ft above ground level. The total cost for the competition drones without sensors needs to be under $5000. Team AREND's personal goal is to come in around $1000. Any innovative ideas beyond the required specification can earn bonus points for the student teams.
I'm excited to see a competition that is engaging students and professionals around the world. Engineering when used as a tool for positive social change is an amazing thing. The students in Team AREND are getting experience working on a real world problem with one of the industry's great minds. The project might not stop poaching altogether but the air presence should act as a deterrent and innovation in the field of UAVs will help everyone. Video.