Friday, 27 May 2011

Monitoring Wildlife using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to boost conservation efforts in Kenya

In the beginning: what started out as an investigation into "Flying Things" leads to conservation efforts...

 project boilerplate

I started out to see if using locally (Nairobi) available materials it was possible to develop an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). As it turned out, it is quite possible to do so, but the challenges are countless: Electronics, programmable logic, you name it!
UAVs are not that common in Africa, though their application in Africa would be crucial for our development. When developing the Flying Thing, I've had several applications in mind, but the most important has been boosting Wildlife Conservation efforts in Kenya.

Tourism is key in Kenya, and accounts for the largest share in the GDP (I stand corrected! :) ). There are numerous wild animals in large reserves and parks that need protection from threats ranging from poaching to wild bush fires. Wildlife Conservation is therefore necessary to ensure continued survival of various species, some endangered, through provision of a monitoring platform at an affordable cost.
Using a UAV designed and developed for Wildlife conservation will see an enhancement on monitoring and control of the threats mentioned, leaving happy animals (and tourists :) )

I started by using plastic sheets and PVC pipes and whipped up this....

Its a simple but practical design. The yellow tube is the kind used for drainage water. I used my daughters stroller wheels for landing gear, and I am using side mirror motors as servo motor to actuate the control surfaces: Flaps, radarvators. Initially the Flying Thing had a conventional t-tail, but a crash lead to adopting a different tail. More on that later.

Usually to test I tow the Flying Thing. I use a van to do so, and usually use a road section currently under construction on Thika Road to avoid any traffic disruptions. When towed it unfortunately swerves from left to right owing to no steering and I have to move the van accordingly to compensate! You can imagine how dangerous that is!! Its all worth it when it glides though! I am looking to fit an engine to stop the towing.

 Here are some more pics...

...notice the nose of the Flying Thing. Someone on diydrones suggested I put a soda bottle :). Great idea! I am planning to fix a gasoline engine for more power and to enhance endurance: Gasoline is better than electric where endurance is concerned, as a lipo battery lasts about 10 minutes!!

...early construction showing the frame. Notice bottles holding it in place to allow PVC bonding agent to congeal!

.... trying out the electronics... I am powering it using PC power supply, bottom left on image!