Google has announced that it is awarding a US $5 million grant to the World Wildlife Fund to help the organization buy, among other things, drones. The drones will be used to keep track and protect tigers, rhinos, and elephants in Africa and Asia.
What the WWF is going to try is an integrated animal monitoring solution involving electronic tags, aircraft, and human patrols, all guided by a Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool (SMART, of course). According to the BBC, these monitoring aircraft will be robotic in nature, likely small drones controlled by tablets, and they'll be able to snap photos of suspected poachers while following tagged animals around.
Software will help the WWF identify which animals are most vulnerable and in what areas, with the eventual goal of "creating an efficient, effective network that can be adopted globally."
This is a good start, but the sorts of drones that the WWF seems to have in mind may not be sophisticated enough, or powerful enough, to prove much of a direct threat to poachers, meaning that the primary deterrent will have to be the human patrols. So here's what I think the WWF should do with the $5 million: scrap the software and the humans and the tags, and buy a Predator drone and a single Hellfire missile. Go find some poachers, blow up whatever hapless tree they're standing next to, and then go home. Word will get out that the WWF has Predator drones firing missiles at poachers (!), and nobody in their right minds will ever bother the animals ever again. Finally, throw a huge party with all the leftover cash, and invite me. It's brilliant.
Updated 15 August 2014: Replaced images and clarified language describing the project.