Ol Pejeta’s ‘drones’ nearly ready for deployment


(Posted 25th July 2013)

As was reported here some time back, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy was the first among Kenya’s private wildlife sanctuaries to commit to the introduction of airborne surveillance by using UAV’s today better known as ‘drones’.

Supported by Kenya’s corporate world as well as individuals has the money been raised to go ahead with the development of a vehicle capable to carry out complex tasks and suited to the weather over the Laikipia plains, and word from Ol Pejeta now has it that the first drone is ready for test flights at the manufacturer.

The UAV will be known as ‘Aerial Ranger’ in direct reference to the rangers on the ground, who will in a few weeks time receive surveillance data and real time information about suspicious movements of people outside and inside the conservancy. Information sent to this correspondent by the Ol Pejeta team states: ‘From the start we have set out develop a bespoke drone for conservation with new tracking capabilities and greater flexibility to integrate sensor and operation developments in the future. Whilst there are many off- the-shelf solutions out there, including numerous ex-military options, we believe that it is best to spend time and funds ensuring we have a drone that is truly fit for our purpose. In this instance, more flight testing is required to ensure the reliability and feature set for our anti-poaching drone solution before we are ready for fielding. In particular we are keen to find ways to maximise the range of our RFID tracking capabilities. We would like to ask our supporters to bear with us a little longer as we lock this down through a series of rigorous flight tests. As ever, we are keen to keep you up to date as we take this journey, developing the aerial ranger and finalising approvals in Kenya’.

The new bird, when operational over Ol Pejeta, will have a reach of up to 125 kilometres of flight distance and can remain airborne for up to 2 hours at a go, making the acquisition of more than one of these state of the are aerial surveillance systems likely, if not necessary to ensure seamless surveillance of the sprawling estate.

Special thanks go to KLM and to DHL as both companies have gone to great lengths to donate to this project, with KLM Cargo very likely to fly the new bird to Kenya where it will then be assembled, inspected by the Kenya CAA for compliance with aviation regulations and then deployed in the skies over Ol Pejeta. Watch this space for updates.