It is a matter of simple Math,
and due process.
Modern methods and technology, especially from the defense sector such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems(ISR), can be adapted and used in humanitarian and conservation efforts to produce long-term proactive effects. The goal is not to introduce specific technology, such as drones into the field merely for the sake of using technology, but rather to properly select and deploy systems and methods for each area as part of a greater integrated strategy that empowers rangers and local operatives to fulfill their mission, proactively and efficiently, creating long-term impact on the detection of illegal activity, decreasing poaching levels, improving conservation and humanitarian efforts (creating an Advanced Conservation or Protection Unit - ACPU).
Systems and needs vary greatly between areas, but if selected, integrated and used wisely an advanced system unit can effectively cover an area larger than covered by 50 ranger teams - providing humanitarian, agriculture and environmental issues invaluable live immediate data over extensive range and time.
It is critical to remember - Systems are not meant to replace manpower, which is already shorthanded in most conservation and humanitarian projetcs, but rather to empower and enable these teams to effectively cover and protect the areas under their mandate.
For illustration purposes only, the images below we're created based on the Khaudum park in Namibia - Comparing the ranger team coverage to the coverage of a single advanced conservation unit in several modes.
How can systems help ?
Lack of real night capabilities
Most illegal activities occur in near-nighttime (before/after sunset/rise).
Current capabilities for night activity are very limited - especially from ground level.
The application of advanced night vision systems can help, but varies greatly on the system in use. Most hand held systems (FLIR or Image intensifiers) operate for short ranges only - allowing some but limited capabilities in the field.
In addition, night scouting activity may create large visual and audible footprints - detected easily by animals and poachers.
The basic mobile unit (Orange road on map)
Rangers usually operate from vehicles.
A mobile 2 men team can cover a daily distance of approximately 50Km, depending on terrain and road accesability.
During transit, detection ability is highly compromised and enables only momentary short distance capability depending on the terrain, visual conditions and weather. In parallel, the large noise footprint of a vehicle enables animals/poachers to hide/run from the approaching rangers.
The route illustration shows the route covered by a ranger vehicle unit (while detection is lowered to 250m from each side - Orange path).
The Ranger - Basic coverage
(Marked as an Orange dot on map)
Rangers are the pillars of conservation, forming the basic patrol unit.
The visual detection capability of a single ranger depends on many factors - Visibility, daylight, terrain, weather conditions, vegetation, etc.
An effective detection range refers to the distance in which a person (Or animal) can be detected (not distance to the "horizon").
Daylight effective visual coverage will be anywhere between 20m in very thick vegetation to 500m in an open area with perfect conditions and a pair of binoculars. (A 500m radius circle appears as the orange dot in the center of the park). Nighttime detection with current capabilities is almost non existent
Multiple ranger teams (Orange dots on map)
In perfect conditions, the detection radius of a single stationary ranger unit is 20-500 meters with binoculars.
what happens if you place 20 or more Units in one area ?
In the image, 20 ranger units (40 rangers) have been placed in an area 14km x 24km. It is clear that even under these conditions, a single poacher team (Yellow dot), can go through undetected.
Even if teams are driving around, the ability of a poacher team or animal to pass through undetected is relatively high.
Model III - Radar and combined system
A greater range and capability can be attained by combining systems that complete each other, allowing the ranger units a 24/7 control of a very large area.
In this example, the combined system performs 360 degree radar detection for movements and launches the observation system for 2 possible threats or points of interest.
The model clarifies how with the right selection and operation a single units is immediately empowered and can create a wise operational routine to control a much larger area according to resources and threats.
A simple ranger team can effectively cover a very small area.
Advanced tools do not come to replace rangers but rather to empower and enable proactive activity either by a single system or a wise combination of systems.
Advanced capabilities can enable a long term and mobile routine operation by a single unit to covertly and effectively monitor a much larger area from a distance, during day and night - while animals and poachers are unaware they are being watched.
Model I - A stationary short observation system
Observation Balloons or turrets are surveillance systems, consisting of a stabilized day/night electro-optical payloads (or other) suspended from a helium-filled aerostat or mast that is tethered to a ground control system.
By providing an elevated platform, well above the field of operations, the system offers an indispensable, prolonged dominating view of the scene below. In this model, a short-medium-range surveillance coverage of 3-5 Km radius during day and night (Blue circle).
These systems are field proven in the defense sector and require relatively short training period
Model II - The mobile short observation system
Observation systems mounted on mobile vehicles enable a monitoring of much larger areas than the basic range.
In this example, the simple observation system performs a 360 degree observation for 2 hours in each location, and moves on to 4 different locations according to threat assessment. (Covering a large area every 8 hour shift).
The appropriate operational deployment routine can evolve and change according to threats and needs, depending on ranger capabilities, terrain and resources.
The variety of advanced defense systems that can be recruited for humanitarian and conservation causes is immense, either for research or defense of protected areas.
The process to select and implement is crucial - allowing a thorough transparent process will allow the right solutions to be introduced to empower units on the ground.