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    Google Just Spent $5 Million on Drones to Spy on Rhino Poachers

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Thanks to Google, a fleet of drones will soon soar over Africa and Asia. Instead of targeting insurgents, however, they'll be spying on poachers, and sending the data back to international conservation groups. The search giant has donated $5 million to the World Wildlife Federation, which has pioneered a drone program bent on protecting endangered species in Nepal. 

    We recently investigated the newest and most prominent anti-poaching technology, and survelliance drones were arguably the most effective of the lot. (For more on the rise of non-combat drones, see our most recent documentary, Drone On) Since the WWF began using unmanned aerial vehicles in Nepal two years ago, only two endangered rhinos have been lost. Before the drones swooped in, one was killed every month on average. 

    The drones have sent back data that has led to poachers' capture, and now additionally serve as a deterrent to further ainmal slaughter in the region—organized crime rings are reluctant to operate with the drones soaring overhead.

    Also, we're using the word  'drones' pretty liberally here; these are really just trumped-up, sophisticated remote controlled airplanes. They launch by hand, can travel only 20 miles, and can stay airborne for about an hour. 

    Mother Jones reports on the impact the infusion of cash will have on the operation:

    The Google funding will enable WWF to expand its drone program in Asia and Africa to protect rhinos, which are hunted for their horns; elephants, which are pursued for their tusks, and tigers, which are killed for everything from their eyes to their reproductive organs. The grant will also be used to advance wildlife tagging technology, specialized sensors, and ranger monitoring software.

    It will be money well-spent. Poaching is out of control, and conservationists are going to need the best tech available to go up against the increasingly wealthy and well-equipped crime syndicates responsible for the lion's share of it. Again, there's plenty more on those anti-poaching efforts here. 

    Topics: drones, poaching

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