Russia to test drones to track wildlife, poachers

Moscow, May 18 (IANS/RIA Novosti) In a bid to track its wildlife and hunt down poachers, Russia is all set to test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at a nature reserve on the country’s Pacific coast this summer.

The drones in question, weigh about two kilogramme each and have a range of 60 km. They would be equipped with inexpensive cameras capable of snapping a shot every two seconds.

“UAVs are silent and can fly at a very low altitude to produce high-resolution imagery and detect poachers, their boats and vehicles,” said Alexandra Filatkina, deputy director for development at the Kronotsky nature reserve on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The peninsula is in far eastern Russia, lying between the Sea of Okhotsk on the west and the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea on the east. Its area is approximately 140,000 sq. miles (370,000 square km).

Kamchatka’s mineral resources include coal, gold, mica, pyrites, sulfur, and tufa.

Aerial imagery makes it possible to spot not just the trails of motor vehicles, but illegal logging sites and waste dumps as well, Filatkina added.

The drones will be “road tested” at Kronotsky to see whether they can be used in other wildlife sanctuaries across Russia, especially in patrolling for poachers and other lawbreakers, as well as to detect and contain forest fires, she said.

The plan’s authors likewise hope the drones will greatly reduce the cost of aerial monitoring, necessary for track certain animal populations – like brown bears, reindeer and snow sheep.

Last year, the South Kamchatka Federal Reserve spent over $32,000 on monitoring brown bears alone.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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