There are increasing signs that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could bring development instead of destruction.
Enthusiasts argue that drones could be used to deliver medicines and vaccines, establish mobile communication networks in the wake of natural disasters, combat wildlife poaching and provide early alerts for emerging conflicts. The charity WWF, for example, plans to make use of 'conservation drones'.
"In the first phase, WWF will be testing aerial surveillance technologies equipped with sensors to detect poachers and direct enforcement efforts," says Crawford Allan, WWF's lead on the project. "There are various technologies and WWF will focus on finding the right vehicle with the right sensors that is cost-effective and easily operable by anti-poaching teams," he tells SciDev.Net.
This work has been made possible by a US$5 million grant, in December, from Google's Global Impact Awards scheme, which will allow WWF to test advanced but easily replicable technologies in vulnerable sites in Asia and in African wildlife parks.
Aerial survey systems will be combined with animal tagging technologies and ranger patrols guided by analytical software to provide surveillance to detect and deter poaching.