Coverage, in the new sphere of UAV anti-poaching surveillance, implies bringing together the appropriate equipment with the appropriate operating concept to effectively survey and protect large areas. African protected areas vary from average to staggering. The Selous in Tanzania is over 40,000sq km, the size of Switzerland while Tanzania’s total protected areas is greater than the whole of the United Kingdom. In the face of the market pressure now existing for illegal wildlife products, traditional ranger operations CANNOT secure these areas through traditional patrol. Aerial surveillance has now become a necessity.
Light aircraft and helicopters are also being considered. These however are more dangerous as they are subject to poacher ground fire. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are the logical and inevitable answer. The decision making on this is underway across Africa. It is being hindered somewhat by UAVs reputational association with clandestine military operations. More to the point UAV aircraft come in many shapes and sizes and with a huge variety of payloads. These options though haven’t yet been effectively matched up with appropriate concepts and this same process is being hindered by UAVs reputational association with clandestine military operations.
The more pertinent question is, how will UAVs do it and how much will it cost? Without a doubt, cost is a major question. After all, if costs were no barrier, African countries would simply expand their ranger forces by ten-fold and pay them double. But that’s not possible and UAV’s are needed for that very reason. Coverage.
Operationally, coverage is the area that the service can effectively protect and it can be seen as a result of three factors. Firstly the endurance of the aircraft themselves, secondly the method of deployment of the aircraft and thirdly the degree of efficiency of intelligence input. In the fast growing world of UAV development and supply, the spec of proposed aircraft are often pitched as ends in themselves. And the fact is UAV technology capable of providing this surveillance is available and has been around for some time. Unfortunately, equipment developed for the military is way off the scale, prohibitively expensive, and too far too complex.
Bathawk Recon’s choice of equipment and operational plan are developed to deliver on the cost effectiveness equation. The ease of use of the equipment and logistics of getting that equipment to the field are key factors in Bathawk’s plan to develop a modular service that can be replicated again and again thus building up coverage commensurate with Tanzania’s huge endowment of protected areas.