AI drones being deployed to help thwart ivory hunters in Africa

Posted: 23 May 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Two African elephant (Loxodonta africana) roaming the flowery grass land, Tanzania.

Thousands of rhinos and elephants could be saved each year in Africa, thanks to AI powered drones, designed to predict, spot and identify poachers.

Deep learning software firm Neurala and the Lindbergh Foundation have teamed up for the initiative, which was announced earlier this week.

Neurala said its technology can learn from any sensory stream to identify an object of interest. And will work closely with the Foundation, to “sift through” terabytes of video, including infrared, in real time as the drone is flying, pinpointing animals, vehicles and poachers, both during the day and at night.

Neurala software will be used as a part of the foundation’s Air Shepherd Program, dedicated to the elimination of illegal poaching of elephants and rhinos in southern Africa using ‘cutting-edge’ software-based predictive analysis and drones to stop poachers before they can reach target animals.

“Vital force for good”

“This is a terrific example of how AI technology can be a vital force for good,” said Neurala CEO Max Versace. “We’re thrilled to be working with the Lindbergh Foundation in this unique partnership, contributing our deep learning software to such a worthwhile cause and doing our part to preserve endangered species.”

According to the Foundation, more than 36,000 elephants were killed in 2014 by poachers for their ivory (tusks). Various figures suggest this number has fallen in recent years to around 20,000, as a result of dwindling numbers and greater protection efforts.

Rhino slaughters for their horns are said to have been around 1,000 in 2016 and are listed as some of the most endangered species on the planet.

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