Drones spot elephant herd, push it back into forest

The Forest department has procured drones to avert human-elephant conflict

Updated - August 29, 2018 12:52 pm IST

Published - August 29, 2018 07:51 am IST - Coimbatore

 The drone during a trial conducted by the Forest Department at Periya Thadagam in Coimbatore on Tuesday.

The drone during a trial conducted by the Forest Department at Periya Thadagam in Coimbatore on Tuesday.

The Forest Department on August 28 got a shot in the arm in mitigating human-elephant conflict in Coimbatore with the successful test flight of two advanced drones.

Using the drones from the peripheries, officials successfully located a herd of wild elephants roaming a reserve forest area between Mangarai and Periya Thadagam.

They had initially located the herd inside the reserve forest and returned to the peripheries to test-fly the drones.

“The test flight was quite successful. The drones could live stream high quality video of the elephant herd even from a height of 70 metres. The buzzing sound of the rotors (similar to the buzzing of honey bees) also made the elephants retract further into the reserve forest,” said Deepak Srivastava, Field Director of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Mukurthi National Park and Chief Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle.

One drone weighing three kg, priced at ₹5 lakh, and another weighing five kg and priced at ₹7 lakh, were tested on August 28. The Department had procured six drones using funds allocated under Tamil Nadu Biodiversity and Greening Project. Two of them were allotted to Coimbatore, which has been witnessing frequent instances of human-elephant conflicts.

“The drones can be flown 25 minutes at a stretch before the battery needs to recharged. They can be used to monitor areas in forest where access for humans is difficult. They will also be handy in anti-poaching operations,” said Mr. Srivastava.

“The result of the test flight during daylight was promising. We are optimistic to test them at night as they have infra-red cameras. The test flight at night will be done at Veerapandi village late on Tuesday,” he said.

District Forest Officer D. Venkatesh said four to five staff attached to each of the seven forest ranges in Coimbatore division would be trained to operate the drones.

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