Drones in Gabon (DIG)

We are partnering with the Nicholas School of the Environment, as well as a conservationist group at Wonga Wongue National Park in Gabon, Africa to develop a system for monitoring the African forest elephant, which is one of the most heavily poached animals in the world. The goals of this effort are to develop this system using a quadcopter, ground control station, and thermal video camera such that the elephants can be monitored from aerial vantage points during nighttime. While this task might seem trivial, the reasoning comes from the high uncertainties in current methods for estimating the African forest elephant population. There are several constraints to developing this system including:

  • Cost – the system must be inexpensive (under $2,000)
  • User-Friendly – the system must be simple to use and require little training for any operator, regardless of background or culture, to control with high confidence
  • Maintainable – the system must be easy to repair when crashes, which are at times inevitable, occur
  • Reliable – the system must be reliable in remote regions that might have dense canopy surroundings (i.e. communications need to be robust)

At the end of the project, we will have a system that meets the above criteria and will be given to conservationists at the Wonga Wongue National Park in Gabon. Comparable systems to the one described can cost several thousand dollars; however, the cost and maintainability of our system will allow for robustness and cost-efficient repairs that conservationists' budgets will allow for. (Contact: Humans and Autonomy Lab, Cummings)