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Drones are a tool for modern conservation that can be utilized to establish habitat health and anti-poaching initiatives. But unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are expensive and sometimes hard to fly, putting them out of reach for many park managers. EnviroDrone has developed an affordable easy-to-use platform that will support conservationist with their existing programs. The UAS will be available in Mid-2017. To get you exited about all the opportunities, here are five ways drones can  be used on the front lines of wildlife conservation around the world.

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4. Getting the Big Picture

To understand how climate change and industrial development affect wildlife, ecologists need a birds-eye view. Deforestation has taken a terrible toll on great ape populations. To save chimps, EnviroDrone collaborated with Conservation Drones, LJMU, The Jane Goodall Institute and The Ugalla Primate Project to measure and protect the surrounding forests in Tanzania.

5. Identifying Invasive Species

Drones can assist in identifying invasive species, including weeds and plants. Drones saved park rangers the trouble of navigating the habitats extreme temperatures and rugged terrain. High-resolution images can identify invasive and allow ranger to monitor the resources and maintain troublesome weeds.

3. Counting Populations

Getting an accurate population size not only tells park managers how much food and habitat is needed for a certain species, but also how threatened that species might be. Destruction and fragmentation of caribou habitat in B.C.'s Interior from clearcut logging, roads and other development have led to precipitous declines in mountain caribou populations. Drones can help conserve woodland caribou. The use of a fixed-wing drone can acquire images of woodland caribou more accurately than from light manned aircraft.  The imagery obtained allows conservationists to find and identify caribou and even differentiate between adults and calves.

2. Getting Up Close

By getting closer to animals than people can, drones take intimate photographs and collect solid data. The Ocean Alliance, in collaboration with the Olin College of  Engineering outfitted their weather-ready SnotBot to harvest whale blow. The drone is designed to fly closely along the water in anticipation of a whale surfacing. When the animal pops its head up to exhale, the SnotBot will quietly move in to collect its bounty before charting its way back to biologists anchored half a mile away. Its makers ensure that it's a safe, silent, and simple alternative to chasing after the cetaceans in noisy boats.

1. Fighting Wildlife Crime

Drones already act as wildlife police, scoping out poachers in Mali and Kenya. In 2012, Google launched a $5 million grant to launch aerial surveillance in remote areas in Africa and Asia, where endangered species like elephants and rhinoceroses are most vulnerable to illegal trafficking. This project has engaged a variety of companies around the world to participate and develop turn-key solutions. Beyond poaching, drones are tackling illegal fishing, hunting, and burning. In Belize, drones are saving threatened fish populations by finding vessels that are over their catch limits, fishing without permits, or in restricted waters.

How Drones Are Emerging as a Valuable Conservation Tool

If you’re looking to learn about the history of drones – prepare to be amazed. Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) started out simple and rudimentary. Theses objects could barely fly, but slowly and steadily began to evolved into what we see today. Their history and evolution takes us all around the globe, where we meet such personalities as Franz von Uchatius and Nicola Tesla. Like all other amazing – and controversial – human inventions, the history of drones shows that these monotonous-sounding objects can be used either for the best of mankind, or it can be applied in the terrifying quest for power as a spectacular instrument for evil or war. However way you look at this phenomenon, it is, once more, a revolutionary achievement by human kind.

A brief history of drones – Timeline Infographic

1782 The Montgolfier brothers in France use unmanned balloons
1806 Kites were flown from the HMS Pallas scattering propaganda pamphlets over parts of France
1848 Austria mounts bombs on two hundred pilotless balloons as part of an secret attack against Venice
1862 A patent for a flying machine that can hold bombs was lodged in Massachusetts
1898 American Armed forces use a kite with a camera attached to it for reconaissance during the Spanish-American war, Tesla demonstrates the Automaton at Madison Square Garden
1911 The Italians use drones when they attacked Libya
1940s The GB-1 Glide Bomb was designed to bypass German air defences, carrying a deadly 2000 pound bomb
1960 Lightning bug and Ryan Firebee used as remote combat aircraft
1960s Lightning bugs used in wars including Vietnam in more than 3500 combat incidents
1974 Abe Karem develops the Amber, nicknamed the Predator
1986 Israel and American military start using the Pioneer
1991 At least one UAV was airborne at all times
1993 Monitoring of climate and environment using drones
1999 Predators used for surveillance and combat in Kosovo, Afghanistan and other war zones
2007 The Reaper, used in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan
2014 Popularity explosion and general use of drones as tech toys, US military UAV budget set at ~$24Bn
2016 Consumer drone popularity at all-time high, drones in near-misses with commercial aircraft
2017 Legalities and ethics in the foreground as drones keep getting popular

Why do we call it a drone?

It cannot be exactly pinpointed why the name “drone” was chosen, although it seems logical when one hears the sound. This spunky object – which can now be as small as the size of a man’s palm – makes a crazy humming sound, much like a bee in hot pursuit. That type of hum does not have ups and downs – it just drones and drones on and on, so this pretty much explains the label. So, you are wondering, and it is perfectly understandable: why not just call it just small, tiny airplane if it does the same thing, more or less?  That is where the beauty of the drone comes in.

It is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be remotely controlled. Of course, this makes sense when you think about the history of aircraft that lead to this nifty invention – hence the history of drones. When airplanes were made, they had to be tested as well. But no organisation, country or business could – or would – sacrifice a pilot every time they tested a plane. And one may justifiably ask: who would be the poor victim or volunteer? There are three main types of drones in use today:

  • Military drones – UAVs primarily used for military actions such as surveillance and remote targeting
  • Commercial drones - UAVs primarily used for commercial application such as conservation, construction, agriculture, forestry, etc.
  • Personal drones – UAVs are used for recreational use, primary for aerial videography and photography, besides other such uses as drone racing

In this article, we will start primarily with the evolution of unmanned flying objects, skipping the dark era of military drones and diving into the evolution of commercial drones.

Who was the inventor behind the first drone?

There at least seems to be clarity that the inventor of the first drone was Austria, Franz von Uchatius. It is also apparent from history that the Austrians had no qualms or doubt to use this weapon with all their energy focused on the task of war. Homan points out that these bombs – the drones – were filled with devastating shrapnel. It appears that they were detonated by timers, but did little more than maiming many people. In June 1862, an intriguing patent for a flying machine that can hold bombs was lodged in Massachusetts. This was for an intricate design that held hydrogen gas, and with steam-power, the wings were pivoted from horizontal to vertical. Then, a mere seven months later, Charles Perry of New York also registered a patent for a hot-air balloon that carried a basket with a timing mechanism that tipped the bomb out. The balloon was – as initially planned, unmanned. It is hugely fascinating that these patent inventors were at the time not seen as very brilliant – they were described as silly “cranks”.

Tesla's teleautomation was a fundamental step.

Undoubtedly, though, there must have people with hidden visions of how drones could be used in future warfare applications. Konrad Lorenz, a behavioural scientist, a former Nazi but later Nobel-prize winner, propagated the fact that men and women plainly have a drive to be aggressive towards others. This drive is controlled through a safety mechanism in the human mind, where the desire to kill is blunted, when an opponent shows submission. Putting distance between the aggressor and opponent typically stunted this safety mechanism.

Drones would thus be perfect military machines since they nearly completely shut-off this safety mechanism – they completely isolated the human from the actual killing. However, in 1898, before being used for way, the modern flying robot with military and war potential was peacefully floating on Madison Square Garden’s pond.

What are drones doing at this point in history?

A Drone is not only useful for war, attacks and spying, they're for recreational use as well. In fact, it has become one of the most popular toys in history. Drones began to fly off the shelves in 2014, and the number is steadily increasing. The once historical dangerous drones also now does wonderful environmental work. Drones are being using in a variety of commercial industries such as agriculture, forestry, aggregates, wildlife, municipal, etc.

What has history shown about drones that is positive and uplifting?

Drones can perform stunning acts: they can detect weather and storms; they do 3D mapping. Drones can monitor wildlife; they can assist with search and rescue; they can enforce the law and order; and they can assist farmers with their labour. This is already a stunning constructive and positive summary. In 2013, Amazon announced that they were exploring the delivery of packages and orders in the near future. A person would get their order on the same day of buying online. Facebook have been running tests, for providing internet access to remote areas using drones. Truth be told, drones will always be operated in both deadly and useful ways.

Conclusion: the fascinating history of drones

Although military drones have certainly come a long way, personal drones are still pretty much in their infancy. The history of drones is only just beginning. And you? What’s your fascination with drones? Do you use them for aerial videography? Are you a drone racer? Are you just fascianted by the tech?

Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share!

The Wonderful and Fascinating History of Drones

The teleautomaton was the first ever radio controlled device in the form of a miniature boat. Tesla had two devices one that could be remote controlled above water and another that had a hidden loop antenna. The most significant ideas, however, were concealed and not even explained in his patent for fear that they would be stolen like so many of his other inventions.

Conservation is a perfect fit for drones, true eyes in the sky. With the number of rhinos poached in South Africa in January of 2014 already outnumbering the total killed in all of 2008, Google has stepped in to help end this terrible practice. As part of its Global Impact Award program, the tech giant has awarded a five million dollar grant to the World Wildlife Fund to expand its fleet of UAVs. These drones will help track poachers and discourage them from attempting to continue hunting rhinos, elephants, tigers, and more, to extinction in Asia and Africa.

References

https://dronewars.net/2014/10/06/rise-of-the-reapers-brief-history-of-drones/

http://intercepts.defensenews.com/2013/05/the-origin-of-drone-and-why-it-should-be-ok-to-use/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/spiesfly/uavs.html

http://www.tumotech.com/2014/06/17/the-past-and-the-future-of-drones/

https://understandingempire.wordpress.com/2-0-a-brief-history-of-u-s-drones/

Steve Coll. 2004. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. London: Penguin Books.

Paul Dickson, 2012. The Electronic Battlefield. Takoma Park: FoxAcre Press.

James W. Gibson, 2000. The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam, 2nd ed. Atlantic Monthly Press.

Mark Mazzetti. 2013, The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

Ian Shaw and Majed Akhter, 2012. The Unbearable Humanness of Drone Warfare in FATA, Pakistan. Antipode44(4), 1490-1509.

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