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How Space Tech and Drones Could Aid Conservation

Jan 08, 2015 04:18 PM EST

Students in the United Kingdom are determined to take some of the cutting edge software and tech of this modern age and reapply to a very unlikely initiative - the conservation of our planet's most threatened species. Drones and space-faring tech, they say, could be keeping our animals safe, and people too.

"Our proposal intends to develop lightweight and autonomous UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for observing in two main sectors: wildlife conservation, and search and rescue," Idriss Sisaid, a student from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, explained in a recent release.

He and his peers Enrique Garcia Bourne and Edward Anastassacos were the winners of this year's Space Solutions University (S2UN) Challenge, set by European Space Agency's Technology Transfer Programme Office. They now hope to work with experts in some of science's most popular fields to see their dream become a reality.

Space technology hasn't exactly been ignored by conservationists in the past. NASA and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) recently revealed at 2014's at World Parks Congress how much satellite imagery and aerial surveys do for the sake of ecological monitoring and habitat protection with their publication of the book Sanctuary. African conservancies have also started using drone technology to help monitor their massive, understaffed, and difficult-to-protect parks.

However, these efforts have always been too isolated, too focused, or far too unfocused - looking at entire habitats and not the vulnerable species that reside there. This is laregly because of budget and technological restrictions.

Using patented technology from the ESA, called "Imaging Optics and Optical Device for Mapping a Curved Image Field", the students' proposed "Horus" project could produce real-time aerial imagery at a lower cost and offer greater responsiveness than these existing alternatives.

"When applied to UAVs, this allows far greater coverage and improved performance when compared to UAVs with more traditional cameras," Garcia Bourne added.

According to the ESA, "the team is now assessing how best to develop their idea," hoping to turn it into a profitable business model that would make it widely used around the world.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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