Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are a cheap and effective technology for rangers to use in the field. These UAVs are portable, easy to operate and are the first tactic rangers use to move elephants out of unwanted areas before the helicopter is called in.
MEP has been developing our UAV project since September 2012 when CEO Marc Goss bought a simple UAV to test in the Mara. What we discovered was that when we flew it toward some elephants the effect was startling; the whole herd bunched up and ran away from the noise of the UAV which sounds like a swarm of bees.
Lucky for MEP at the time, the UAV technology was improving fast and field use became a reality. MEP started a training program for rangers to safely mitigate human-elephant conflict both day and night using UAVs. The curriculum was designed so that rangers could pick up the necessary skills to safely and effectively fly. MEP partnered with RESOLVE who funded a project that allowed us to successfully conduct training in Tanzania from 2014 to 2016 for the Tanzania wildlife authorities.
“WHAT WE FIND IS THAT DRONES FOR MITIGATING HUMAN-ELEPHANT CONFLICT ARE VERY USEFUL. THEY ARE VERY EASY TO FLY SO RANGERS CAN FLY THEM. WHEN YOU’RE HERDING ELEPHANTS THAT’S PARAMOUNT TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE IN CONTROL OF THE SITUATION.” Marc Goss, CEO, Mara Elephant Project
Unfortunately, in 2014 Kenya instituted a ban on the use of UAVs which result in our program being put on hold until recently when the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority circulated draft policies for operating UAVs legally again. Under the new regulations MEP has applied for the required license and will be flying again soon.