Scientists monitoring orangutan populations on the Indonesian island of Sumatra developed a do-it-yourself aerial drone to keep costs down and conservation up, according to a Scientific American blog post.
The drones have photographed orangutan nests and human encroachment, the cause of the orange apes’ decline. Sumatran orangutan populations shrunk by 80 percent over the last 75 years, according to the article.
Researchers hope that the drones can aid in stopping poaching and illegal encroachment on tropical forests. Quick retrieval of photo evidence will give authorities more lead time to catch those illegally harming the forest.
The drones were built using information from a web forum dedicated to home-built unmanned aerial vehicles, which even provided software for the onboard autopilot system.
Total cost for the vehicle, camera, control system and flight stabilizers is around $2,000, compared to up to $50,000 for commercial UAVs. Granted, these drones are not nearly as advanced as a high-end military-grade drone.
Scientists behind the study created a website, www.conservationdrones.org, to share their findings and sell the low cost UAVs.
Image: An aerial view of deforestation in Sumatra captured by a Conservation Drone (Credit: Orangutan Conservancy)