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Calling All Makers: Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge, A $25,000 Contest to Stop Poaching

Calling All Makers- A $25,000 Contest to Stop PoachingHey, makers! Yeah, you–the ones taking on maker projects for fun and focusing on STEM education in school.

We wanted to let you know about a very cool contest to design and build a UAV to stop rhino poaching in South Africa.

The contest, called the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge, is being hosted by Kashmir Robotics, a division of the Al-Kareem Foundation designed to ensure that the best possible robots are available to protect endangered species.

The global rhino population–largely centered in Kruger National Park in South Africa–is headed towards extinction, and conservationists are constantly looking for ways to prevent poaching. Now, they’re looking towards makers to help design an inexpensive, efficient Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (or UAV) to detect and locate poachers.

Here’s some more information about the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge:

  • The goal is to design a UAV to operate for hours over the rugged terrain, detect and locate poachers, communicate over existing commercial infrastructures, and recover in the bush
  • The challenge is focused on the integration of embedded systems (like 4G networks), so something like a hobby aircraft could be used as a base for the UAV
  • Teams must include no more than 5 members and 2 advisors, and members can be in high school or college (or just be hobbyists) with no more than one graduate student per group
  • Materials must cost no more than $3,000, but the winning team will receive a trip to demonstrate their UAV at Kruger National Park

The challenge will happen in four phases:

  • Phase One (Deadline: January 5, 2014): Teams will propose a concept that includes aircraft, communications, sensors, and embedded systems
  • Phase Two (Deadline: April 1, 2014, local): Teams will fabricate their aircraft and demonstrate air worthiness, communications, and safety at their local flying fields
  • Phase Three (Deadline: July 1, 2014, regional): Teams will compete in the regional challenge scenario. Specific details of the challenge scenario will not be released until the morning of the competition, so teams will need to be prepared to adjust flight profiles, sensor parameters, and data processing as needed. Regional Prize: $10,000 per team
  • Phase Four (Deadline: October 4, 2013, national): Teams will compete in the national challenge scenario. Specific details of the challenge scenario will not be released until the morning of the competition, so teams will need to be prepared to adjust flight profiles, sensor parameters, and data processing as needed. National Prize: $25,000 plus an all-inclusive 10-day trip to Kruger National Park, South Africa 

We like anything that appeals to makers, but this is a very cool competition for a lot of reasons. From the building/making aspect, it’s very cool (who doesn’t want to try their hand at designing a UAV?), and also, its ultimate goal of stopping poachers is a good one.

Full information about the challenge can be found at the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge website here. Entry forms will be available on the 21st, so get to work!

Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge via Facebook

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