RESTON, VA — The kickoff meeting of our design and build UAV team competing in the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge was held this past Thursday, March 20th. The global Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Challenge, which held a kickoff meeting at Nova Labs back in September, now has over 130 teams from 60 countries, making it the largest UAV incubator in the world.
The team will be called “RhinoHawk” and was started by Aerospace engineer and Nova Labs Business Development Director, Bo Pollett. The team will be led by Nova Labs Co-Founder, Ted Markson, who has extensive experience mentoring FIRST robotics teams. The finals for the competition will be held at the Amakhala Game Reserve in South Africa.
The team was formally announced at a standing-room-only fundraiser held March 6th at the offices of Nature’s Best Photography. Reston founder Robert E. Simon and other local dignitaries were in attendance. The event was sponsored by The Lost Rhino brewing company based in Ashburn, VA.
At the event, Bo presented an early prototype of a 1/4 scale model of the RhinoHawk UAV currently under development.
These UAVs are intended to extend the range and efficacy of the rangers. They can be fitted with infrared cameras to see at night and on-board image processing will be able to detect movement of people and alert the rangers.
—Bo Pollett, Nova Labs Business Development Director
Rangers Appeal for Help
Special guests appearing at the fundraiser were two South African rangers from the group, Our Horn is NOT Medicine. Rangers Lee-Anne Davis and Dylan Davies presented a sobering account of the fight to save the rhino.
The rangers highlighted the seriousness of the problem, noting significant growth in poaching in just the past few years. 1004 rhino were poached in 2013.
Demand for rhino horn on the black market is being driven primarily by superstition and ignorance. Rhino horn is made of keratin and has no medicinal value.
“The rhino are being slaughtered for their horns for what is essentially the same material your fingernails are made of,” Davis said.
Following the presentation, Nova Labs Co-Founder Justin Leto, who joined the UAV Challenge’s fact finding mission to South Africa in November, spoke about the need for Americans to contribute to the cause.
I’m proud to know that Americans in large numbers are contributing their time, their money or their skills to help protect the rhino in South Africa. At Nova Labs we believe our skills can have a significant impact in the world.
— Justin Leto, Nova Labs Co-Founder
Warren Buffett’s son, Howard, recently donated $23 million for border control initiatives. President Obama signed an Executive Order July 1st stating that “Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organized criminal syndicates.” The $10 million pledged then has been supplemented recently with new policies and increased sanctions intended to fight poaching.
RhinoHawk Systems Development and Organization
The following teams will be formed to manage the organization and develop the various systems of the UAV:
Prototyping our UAV, preparing and publicizing our marketing materials, doing local flight tests and competing in the challenge all requires monetary resources. To inquire about sponsorship or to join a team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read up on the Fact Finding Mission and the UAV Challenge: