By James Kariuki
A privately-run wildlife sanctuary has received legal approval to launch its Sh3.2 million drone in its fight against poaching.
The drone will complement security arrangements around the 90,000-acre Ol Pejeta sanctuary.
The “aerial ranger” will be launched in June and will be the first in the anti-poaching campaign in the country, according to Ol Pejeta’s spokesperson Elodie Sampere.
The drone will also be used for virtual tours to showcase Kenya’s wildlife.
It has been quite a journey to get to this point and has taken the leading experts in drone technology, Airware Incorporated, countless development hours.
The aerial ranger’s software and hardware were developed from scratch.
“Tests were conducted and we are upbeat we now have the right drone strong enough to withstand challenging operating conditions,” Ms Sampere said.
100TH RHINO CALF
Ol Pejeta recently celebrated the birth of its 100th rhino calf since its establishment. The sanctuary hosts one of the biggest herds in East Africa and was voted the best managed wildlife conservancy in the world last year.
Drones have mainly been used for military purposes, such as bombing enemy zones and suspected terrorist sites.
Lately, the unmanned aerial vehicles have been deployed for use in peaceful purposes such as security surveillance in posh homes, wildlife sanctuaries and in large industrial firms.
Ms Sampere said they expect the drone to reduce the cost of conducting wildlife census in its vast park.
The sanctuary pays Sh18,920 ($220) per hour for 13 hours for a light aircraft to collect data.
“But an aerial ranger could do all this in a day, at minimal cost, recording footage that can be watched several times over and carefully analysed.
Censuses could be conducted monthly, providing experts with valuable and more reliable data about the Laikipia ecosystem.