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Inexpensive Aerial Drone Cuts Down on Illegal Logging


A new aerial surveillance system to protect forests and endangered species in remote parts of the world is being pioneered by a pair of ecologists in Switzerland. The researchers have designed and built their own flying drone that can capture evidence of illegal activity on film.

The drone, which is able to ascend 800 feet and survey an area of nearly 250 acres, uses its attached video camera to look for illegal logging activity in dangerous and normally inaccessible regions.

So far, says co-inventor, Lian Pin Koh, the technology has been deployed successfully in Indonesia:

“The main initial idea was to use this drone to take videos and photographs of these orangutans from the air so that we can better monitor and survey their populations in the wild… We were able to see evidence of logging of forests in Sumatra, rainforests. We could also see expansions of agricultural plantations… a major threat to the remaining primary forests in many parts of the tropics.”

Koh and his partner, Serge Wish of Zurich University, sourced and assembled the parts for the craft themselves. They say that because it’s relatively simple and inexpensive, they hope to teach other conservationists to make their own models. To that end, the inventors will release instructions for assembly following flight launches planned for Malaysia and Borneo in the coming months.