In 2013, we’ve seen humankind’s capability of murdering innocent people through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, that can seek and destroy targets just about anywhere in the world — all while being controlled by a pilot sitting in a dark room thousands of miles away.
So the question is, can this technology, already put to such diabolical use for political reasons, actually be used for good? There are several projects that utilize UAVs in ways that protect life rather than destroying it. In most cases, the aircraft are being used in remote areas where conservation and protection of endangered species is of utmost importance, but it’s impossible for officials to keep constant surveillance. Here are some cases where drones have helped to protect life.
Africa’s National parks are protected zones, but limited resources and a sparse network of rangers responsible for monitoring hundreds of thousands of acres make it hard to track and capture poachers before their disgusting deed is accomplished. Earlier this year, Care2 reported on a Kenyan wildlife conservancy that was using unmanned aerial drones to look for would-be rhino killers. The drones are fitted with a live streaming HD camera, which is gimbal mounted for 360 degree remote controlled viewing. Rhinos and other protected species in the preserve are fitted with tracking chips. Sensors on the drones can then recognize individual animals and use on-board GPS to store an image tagged with location coordinates.
Most of the world’s current transportation system depends on roads. If you live somewhere the roads don’t go, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to get aid from the outside world if it’s needed. This is the isolation faced by many in developing countries where infrastructure is sorely lacking. Matternet is a company working to leapfrog traditional infrastructure, using UAVs to deliver medicine and goods to places where roads are in disrepair, or simply don’t exist.
According to Take Part, “‘Michigan State University just acquired a drone that will fly over agricultural fields and monitor the health of farmers’ crops. This will allow farmers to better manage their fields, and to hopefully use less water, fertilizer and herbicides,’ said Bruno Basso, an ecosystem scientist at the university.” Although they’ve only been tested in Europe so far, the aerial farmers have been shown to be capable of measuring the nitrogen content of plants, whether or not they may need fertilizer, and if they need water, which could help conserve resources and prevent overuse of fertilizers.
Shark attacks have become increasingly frequent along the Australian coast. Of course, the ocean is the shark’s habitat, and we’re the ones invading it, but since people won’t stop going to the beach any time soon, it’s important to find a way to coexist. In some parts of the country, officials are exploring the use of drones to scan the seas for potential predators, as well as swimmers and surfers who might be in trouble. Although shark attacks are gruesome and often fatal, they’re not as common as you might think. Which is why some have said that launching a drone program wouldn’t be cost effective. Surf Lifesaving Australia has been conducting a drone trial on Queensland beaches, not to search for sharks, but to help spot swimmers in trouble where lifesavers are not available
The past few years have seen a frightening uptick in out of control wildfires across the United States and around the world. Climate change, poor land management and invasive species all played their role in creating explosive conditions, and drones have been one of the most useful tools in fighting the blazes once they ignite. According to CNN, “Drones can help in two ways: They can safely gather more information about fire conditions than is currently available, and they can send that information to firefighters on the ground quickly.”
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