Drones keep an eye on Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Anamalai landscapes (India)
Wilson Thomas, The Hindu
June 8, 2021
Fear loomed over the quarters of tea workers near Valparai, around 100 km
from Coimbatore, on June 4 after a 60-year-old man was trampled to death by
a wild elephant.
The estate workers feared that the lone elephant might return to the
Though the anti-poaching watchers of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) are
known for their innate skills in tracking wild elephants, Forest Department
officials chose to deploy a drone to monitor the lone tusker which moved
towards a tough terrain.
“The elephant was monitored by the drone for a few days and until we
ensured that it retracted to the forest. We are continuing vigil in the
area to avoid further human-elephant interactions,” says E. Prasanth,
Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Pollachi Division of ATR.
The drone was also used for surveillance when the Department received
complaints of leopard movements.
“The drone can be flown upto 1.5 hours using an additional battery. It has
a 10 km range and can withstand wind up to 50kmph. The ‘return to home’
feature enables the drone to return to the operator before the battery gets
completely drained,” he adds.
Drones were purchased for ATR, Coimbatore, the Nilgiris and Gudalur Forest
Divisions as the Department wanted to stop the practice of hiring them
along with handlers for major operations.
“One forest guard each from all the seven forest ranges of Coimbatore
Division and three from Tiruppur Division were given training by Skywalk
Drobotics Academy in Coimbatore initially. A total of 10 staff from
Gudalur, the Nilgiris and Pollachi Forest Division of ATR were trained
later,” says M. Senthil Kumar, ACF, Coimbatore Division.
Drones were introduced to explore how the modern technology could be used
to improve efficiency in conservation, says I. Anwardeen, Additional
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore Circle) and Field
Director (in-charge) of ATR.
“We have trained 20 forest staff who are now experts in handling drones.
The aerial monitoring is used for regular perambulation, anti-poaching
drives, surveillance of large mammals like elephants and also to check
illegal activities like tree felling. Drones can reach where the staff may
not be able to reach due to the difficult terrain,” he says.
The cost of training the staff and purchasing drones was found through
ecotourism activities. “This is a good model of in situ conservation
financing where proceeds from sustainable ecotourism projects finance
conservation activities of the divisions,” adds Mr. Anwardeen.