Hackaday Prize Entry: Tracking Rhinos With UAVs

For his Hackaday Prize project, [tlankford01] is using RC planes and UAVs as an anti-poaching system for rhinos and elephants. It’s a laudable goal for sure, but the conditions of this use case make for some very interesting engineering challenges.

The design goals [tlandford] has set are relatively simple for a bush plane, but building a plane that can fly 200km with a 6kg payload and return to base is a challenge that isn’t usually taken up by RC enthusiasts. For this project, [tlandford] is using an entirely 3D printed airframe, with living hinges printed right into the control surfaces. That in itself is pushing the limits of amateur airframes, but [tlandford] isn’t stopping there.

This UAV system will be completely automated, with a single ground control system taking care of controlling a swarm of planes, pointing a tracking antenna, and connecting to the Internet for observation or control from anywhere in the world.

The project that has seen a lot of improvement since it was entered in last year’s Hackaday Prize. The addition of a completely 3D printed airframe is a big one, and replacing the RVJet with something that looks a bit more like a glider should increase the loiter times over the target. There’s a video of the Icarus flying available below. If you also have a UAV project entered in The Hackaday Prize, there is now one obvious choice of what music you should use.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Tracking Rhinos With UAVs

  1. You do know what happened to Icarus, yes? (c:

    Anyhow, kidding aside, IMHO, this is worthy goal. I’m not quite clear on role of the UAVs in fighting poachers, though. Will they be eyes in the sky and direct rangers on the ground to poacher sightings?

    1. Poacher would intercept the UAV reports to find rhinos, and if that does not work they would use their rather large guns to shoot the UAV out of the sky.

      And frankly I’m all for keeping the sky clean of UAV’s as much as possible, even if the bad guys do it.

  2. If you stick in ir camera on it you can write an open cv script to identify whenever a couple of little hot blobs are chasing one big hot blob, and then maybe drop some sticky honey and a swarm of bees on said little hot blobs.

    1. Hmm, need some serious DSP to be sure of correct identification. I for one would not like to be anywhere near two lions with honey on their back being chased by a swarm of bees.

  3. Don’t use music in the videos. I live in Germany. There are some really stupid laws that prevent us from watching videos that have music in them our government doesn’t like (if it is not 110% clear who owns the rights to the music, then the video won’t play in Germany unless we do some Proxy hacking (I suck at that, besides, guess what, it’s illegal in Germany)). Free Music? We don’t like that. Can’t watch that. Even on mute. Stupid.

  4. Sadly, this is a double-edged sword. You just know poachers have drones of their own.

    Of course, that leaves us with the potential for armed drone combat. Imagine a conservation group that funds itself by selling subscriptions to killcam footage of their drones shooting down poacher drones.

    Maybe take it a step further and have the drones hunt poachers. Like Running Man with robots and rhinoceros.

    1. And like the Greenpeace anti-whaling ship it just needs to ram the opposition.

      maybe just have it trail a detachable fishing line from each wing tip (Oops! fishing line is a big nono with those guys)

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