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Makers: Build the winning drone and win $25,000

Wildlife Conservation “Build and Fly” UAV Challenge

Kashmir-Robotics, a division of the Al-Kareem Foundation, is hosting the Wildlife Conservation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Challenge to stop rhino poaching in Kruger National Park.

The Problem

Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s rhinoceros. Since 2010, over 50% of the rhino population in Kruger has been killed by poachers harvesting the rhinos’ horns for the Asian black market. The park is patrolled by rangers, but since Kruger is about the size of New Jersey, it’s nearly impossible for them to catch poachers in the act.

“Most of the rhino poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is done by incursions from neighboring Mozambique. Poachers enter the park and cross the unfenced South African border in the bush at night. They will then hunt for rhino and other animals using large caliber hunting rifles and night vision goggles. They are also armed with AK47 automatic assault rifles. They can illegally enter the park anywhere along the 220 mile border with Mozambique and operate for 1-3 days or longer at a time. This is rough African bush. There are almost no roads, only narrow game paths. No runways. No cellphone signal at ground level. They need to be detected and stopped before any animals are shot. “

The Challenge

The challenge is to design aircraft that can be launched in the bush, operate for hours over the rugged terrain, detect and locate poachers, communicate over existing commercial infrastructures, and be recovered in the bush — all for under $3000 in materials.

“The objectives seem daunting to governments and large corporations, but they are in reach to students and hobbyists due to revolutions in additive manufacturing and smart phone technologies.  Makers use 3D printers to fabricate aircraft structures out of inexpensive polymers. They automate aircraft with inexpensive computers made from smart phone components, and they stream video and other data from the aircraft using TCP/IP protocols over 4G networks at very low cost.  …With the help of Makers around the world we can stop the poaching and save the rhinos.”

Requirements: Teams must include no more than 5 members and 2 advisers.  Members may be high school students, undergraduate college students, or hobbyists with no more than one graduate student.  Advisers may be academics or professionals.

In addition to cash prizes, the winning team will be invited to demonstrate their UAV in Kruger Park, South Africa.

The Challenge consists of 4 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, 2014  (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 

Complete information on participating in the Challenge can be found at http://www.wcuavc.com/challenge.html.


The Al-Kareem Foundation was founded in 2008 to protect endangered species and to help disadvantaged people around the world build sustainable communities. Kashmir-Robotics (K-bot) was created as a division of Al-Kareem Foundation to ensure the best possible aircraft and ground robots are available to protect endangered species.

(For more information on conservation drones, see our earlier post.)

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