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Google Grant to Help WWF Monitor Endangered Species with Drones

It probably doesn't involve armed drones firing missiles, but the WWF will be using UAVs to protect endangered animals

2 min read
Google Grant to Help WWF Monitor Endangered Species with Drones

Photo: Helge Denker/WWF

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.

[ WWF ] via [ BBC ]

Updated 15 August 2014: Replaced images and clarified language describing the project.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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