The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun plan to use drones to monitor tiger population in the reserves. The conservation drones would map select tiger reserves in the country. Apart from monitoring the tiger population, the drones would collect and transmit visual data on animal movements, poaching activities and forest fires from the inaccessible areas of the forest. The data provided could be used for management of habitats and species.
The project, which would mark the beginning of significant technological intervention in wildlife conservation, will be launched in 10 tiger reserves across the country. Each reserve would get five unmanned vehicles, each of which is expected to cost around Rs 400000. Though the project has been given clearance by the Union ministries of Defence and Civil Aviation, strict conditions have been imposed for the usage of the drones.
Drone tests have been conducted previously in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, Assam and in Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. According to the researchers in WII, advanced technological solutions are required for the protection of wildlife populations, especially large animals such as tiger, rhino and elephant, as they move beyond the protected boundaries and are often popular targets of poachers.
According to V.B. Mathur, Director of WII, the drones have programmable auto-pilot and telemetry systems that are capable of recording information and doing its live transmission. He further continued by saying that the use of drones could also make night patrolling of forest terrains, radio-tracking of animals and habitat monitoring possible.
Mathur also added that while deployment and data collection would be carried out by a team of trained professionals working with the Wildlife Institute of India and the State Forest Departments, the research and development activities for further improvisation of the technology for various purposes would be continued in collaboration with national and international organisations.