Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

This is the eighth in a series of posts reporting on the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge fact-finding mission to South Africa.

CHALLENGE UPDATE: 100 teams from 20 countries and 6 continents have signed up to compete.

Al-Kareem Foundation Founder and CEO Princess Aliyah tours Amakhala Game Reserve as a potential site for the finals

Al-Kareem Founder and CEO Princess Aliyah tours Amakhala Game Reserve as a potential site for the finals

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA — Wildlife conservation in South Africa encompasses two main realms, the government-run national parks service and private game reserves. Both require strong counter poaching programs to protect their animals but only government-owned parks can legally fly UAVs without special exception. To investigate the difference, we ventured nearly 1500km south from Kruger to the Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

Similar to the U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), South Africa’s Civil Air Authority (CAA) has yet to produce the UAV regulations private game reserve owners need to legally fly UAVs for counter poaching. Like the U.S., the CAA says they will begin integrating UAVs into civil aviation by 2015. Owners are delaying investment in UAV technology as a result.

Amakhala obtained special permission to demo a UAV for area farmers and game reserve operators.

Amakhala obtained special permission to demo a UAV for area farmers and game reserve operators.

A ranger at Amakhala Game Reserve observes UAV flight

A ranger at the Amakhala Game Reserve observes Aurora Flight Sciences “Skate” UAV

As with most things, when things go off-script, hilarity ensues. Having landed quadcopters in trees myself, I sympathized, but the errant landing invited some much needed comic relief to an otherwise business-as-usual demo.

Ranger Asher assists in UAV retrieval

Even the Pros get their UAVs stuck in trees. Ranger Asher responds.

When I visit a foreign country, I try to learn at least one line of a foreign language. The only requirement is that the line has to be either useful or humorous. The three main languages here are Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans.

Using UAVs for inspiration the line I sought to learn (both useful and humorous) was:

Can I retrieve my unmanned aerial vehicle from your yard?

If you are a native speaker and have a better translation, please contribute in the comments.

Zulu:

kungaba i ukuthatha imoto yami unmanned ehamba emoyeni kusuka egcekeni lakho?

Afrikaans:

Kan ek haal my onbemande arial voertuig uit jou erf?

Xhosa was the most difficult. Based on what I was told, the language does not have a direct translation for an unmanned airplane, so the literal translation is something like: flying car without an engine

Xhosa:

iuioto emoyeui (engaqulywa) ngaphandla (ngamuntu) kwenjuii

The terrain here is different than in the Skukuza region of Kruger. It’s cooler, less dry, more mountainous and there are smaller pockets of dense vegetation mixed with large open spaces.

DSC_0529

The safaris here are getting us off-road and much closer to the wildlife. The scenery and the wildlife here is enchanting.

Norman is popular with the ladies because he keeps the juvenile males in line.

Norman is popular with the ladies because he keeps the juvenile males in line.

According to rangers, elephants and rhino are not particularly chummy. Norman, the elephant, passed uncharacteristically close to a group of rhino without incident. Rangers like Asher develop a strong connection to the animals so the potential for poaching raises the anxiety level for everyone.

“We spend a lot of time with them. They all have names. If we lose one (to poaching), it’s like losing a member of our family,” Asher said.

A rare encounter: rhino with elephant

A rare encounter: rhino interacting with Norman the elephant

The rhino saunter up for their close up.

The rhino saunter up for their close up.

The closest we got to rhino on our trip was at Amakhala

Two adults and a calf. Norman grazes in the background.

Two adults and a calf. Norman grazes in the background.

A cheetah was spotted close to the lodge.

A cheetah was spotted close to the lodge.

DSC_05931

My cameo for the series: blogging from Amakhala’s main lodge.

Justin Leto

Justin is the Co-Founder of Nova Labs, a makerspace and community innovation lab located in Reston, VA. He also serves as U.S. partner for the Reserve Protection Agency (RPA), the SANParks-endorsed sponsor of The Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge. He can be reached at jleto [at] nova-labs [dot] org and on twitter @letojj.


Related
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25,526 other followers