What have we done, and what is our plan?
Status so far
We have spent the first years in Ngulia developing and deploying a smart-phone based command, control and communications (C3) system that digitalizes the workflow of the rangers. The C3 system includes the following components:
- An app for the rangers in the field, where they report direct and indirect rhino sightings, as well as security alerts for suspicious activities, such as footprints, fence breaches and weapons. Data security and robust connection to the network have been important goals.
- A backend with a flexible database for all reports, that will eventually also host sensor measurements and cloud computations for anomaly detections issuing alerts and analytics for off-line evaluations.
- A Dashboard where the commanders and researchers can see the reports from the field, the positions and patrols of the rangers, and other statistics of the system.
The development of the C3 system has been done in strategic phases where we have exclusively focused on the needs of the rangers and the local conditions on the ground.
At the same time, we have spent three years to test state of the art sensor technology in Kolmården wildlife park. Some examples of tests are described below, see also http://wildlifesecurity.se/projects/ for more information.
- GPS tags: We have evaluated a foot-mounted GPS tag from FollowIT during 2015-2017. Several improvements have been done. Two of the rhinos in Kolmården have been trained so that the foot band can be regularly replaced and the battery re-charged. The GPS unit sends the position over GSM to the cloud. We use the position to control a PTZ camera, see below.
- Surveillance video: Stationary camera networks, including also steerable PTZ (pan tilt zoom) and thermal cameras, have been tried both in the savannah stable during wintertime and at the savannah during summer time. The cameras are connected to the Internet, so that the video is available in real-time, and the cameras can be controlled remotely. We have used video cameras from Axis and thermal cameras from FLIR and Termisk Systemteknik.
- Radar: a radar delivers a kind of video of the surrounding at day and night with the same quality. A radar can partly see through vegetation, and is rather insensitive to fog and rain. It is really sensitive to moving objects, so large animals and humans can be detected in 5 km distance, and vehicles 10 km away. We tested a radar from Meteksan Savunma at the savannah during the fall 2016.
- Microphone arrays: In contrast to a single microphone, an array can localize the direction of the sound. This can be used to detect sound anomalies and steer the camera to the interesting place automatically.
- RFID and BLE chip: Many domestic animals and all animals in zoos are marked with RFID chips. A special scanner can at short distance read the identification number of the chip, and in that way the animal identity can always be recovered whatever happens. A new idea evaluated at Kolmården is to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The drawback is that the chip is larger due to that a rather large battery is needed to get a life length that covers the animal life span, but the advantage is that the identity can be read at distance, up to 200 meters. A further advantage the BLE tag can be used to track the animal, with a precision that is almost as good as GPS in the area of coverage.
- Drones: Many western organizations have suggested that drones are the ultimate solution to combat poaching. A drone with video and thermal cameras is undoubtly a great resource for having an eye in the sky. However, the challenge is to get a cost efficient and sustainable solution. We have together with Superfly made tests in Kolmården’s savannah.