WildTrack receives humanitarian award for conservation project using drones and artificial intelligence analyses

Information from senseFly and WildTrack

WildTrack, a non-profit organisation dedicated to non-invasive wildlife monitoring and conservation, has been awarded the AUVSI XCELLENCE Humanitarian Award for pairing its footprint identification technique (FIT) in SAS’s JMP statistical software with the use of high-resolution drone imagery captured using senseFly eBee X fixed-wing mapping drones.

The footprint identification technique was developed by WildTrack, as a translation of indigenous tracking expertise, and enables wildlife conservationists to identify endangered species from their unique footprints. The technique involves capturing footprints and converting them into a geometric profile, and then applying data analyses for the classification. From digital images of footprints, FIT can identify species, individuals, age-class and sex.

The project was recognised by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in the Awards’ Humanitarian and Public Safety category for its use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in monitoring and protecting endangered species, such as the black rhino in Namibia.

WildTrack used the senseFly eBee X drone’s Aeria X high-resolution RGB camera to conduct fast and non-invasive data collection over harsh and vast terrains. From this data they were able to create detailed rhino protection maps for anti-poaching, resource optimisation and rhino management.

The drone was also used to generate high-resolution imaging of objects of interest (cryptic ground evidence) on the ground, such as footprint trails and signs of animal and human activity. This helps the team with their detailed anti-poaching analysis, particularly with the anticipated use of specialist infrared cameras which will enable them to detect illegal poacher activity and rhinos at night.

“Monitoring and protecting endangered species remain the key to protecting the biodiversity necessary to support humanity on our planet,” says Zoe Jewell, president and co-Founder at WildTrack. “Not only does our FIT software allow us to identify where species are most at-risk and how to protect them, but it has also helped reduce illegal poaching, improve wildlife security and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.”

“The innovative intersection of FIT software with drone data capture has already started to change the way essential data are collected, analysed and shared for better decision-making,” said Sky Alibhai, co-founder of WildTrack. “This is important when globally, we still have very little reliable data on where endangered species are or how many are left.”

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