The Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) has taken delivery of several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will be deployed to look for wildlife poachers.
The UAVs were delivered by SWUAT Technologies Limited (Saving the World Using Aerospace Technologies) in partnership with Worldwide Fund for Nature Zambia, which officially launched its UAV conservation project on 2 March. The UAVs will be deployed across five national parks during an initial trial period.
Apart from the primary surveillance role, the UAVs can be used for wildlife population/distribution and vegetation mapping. The aircraft delivered appear to comprise six- and four-rotor vertical takeoff UAVs and a larger fixed wing type.
Zambian Tourism and Arts Minister Charles Banda said, “The use of unmanned aerial vehicle technology will help provide the parks authority with a means of surveillance over places that cannot be accessed by staff, so it will help to preserve wildlife.”
WWF Zambia head of communications and marketing Eneya Phiri said the project was designed to take advantage of recent advances made in the use of UAV technology as a cost effective and more efficient tool for anti-poaching surveillance, poaching threat detection and wildlife research.
Phiri said the project was conceived following the Zambian government guidelines on the use of UAVs in June 2016.
The implementation of the project involves DNPW, the Zambia Civil Aviation Authority (ZCAA) and the Zambia Air Force (ZAF). Training was due to start on 14 February 2018. WWF Zambia said that, if successful, the project will lead to full-scale, game-changing innovative surveillance for protecting Zambia’s iconic species.
Zambia is also using CH-3 UAVs from China and in mid-2017 launched an airborne geological survey project with the type in collaboration with China Geological Department. Between July and August 2017 the CH-3s flew over 50 flights and covered 32 000 kilometres in aerial prospecting operations. For their special role, the CH-3s in Zambia are fitted with aerial magnetometers and airborne radiometric detectors.
The CH-3 is built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and first flew in 2008. It has a wingspan of eight metres, 12 hour endurance and 180 km radius of action. It has been exported to Pakistan (as the Burraq), Nigeria, Turkmenistan and possibly Myanmar. It can be fitted with FT-5 guided bombs or AR-1 missiles – Nigeria’s CH-3s are armed and have been used against Boko Haram militants.
China plans to use UAVs to prospect mines for Liberia and was in talks with Kenya.