The challenges and possible solutions are vast.
The following list of systems provides a general overview of current technologies that are available and adaptable now to humanitarian and conservation challenges and specifically for protection and anti-poaching missions. The list does not presume to represent every possible technology, but rather to provide a preliminary introduction towards assessing viability per site and need.
Each system is essentially a category, under which a great multitude of options exists, varying in and between manufacturers, in quality, reliability, training, cost and much more. Under current conditions, with new manufacturers coming into play, and with the great variety of systems, it is impossible to narrow down cost per category unless a specific sub-category is requested.
Examples of Defense technologies
Aerostats (ISR-Observation balloons)
Helium filled tethered balloons (Aerostats) have been recognized as a great tool for long endurance ISR, compensating for the greatest downside of aircraft based systems which is - limited flight time.
The use of a tethered aerostat enables an aerial 24/7 point of view, covering day and night, while creating a visual deterrence which is lowered only for refueling and maintenance sessions. Systems vary greatly in quality, simplicity, size and carrying capacity, thus vary on possible payloads and actual coverage and operation.
When evaluating their use for civil uses, the entire spectrum of systems must be taken into account, investigated with relevance to the mission in mind and especially the required coverage, mobility ande permits from local Air traffic control.
Mini -Unmanned Aircraft systems (Mini-UAS)
Most conservation efforts until now have been testing the use of smaller platforms commercially manufactured by novice companies, usually under 10kg, capable of flying under 75 minutes, carrying small payloads and costing usually around 100,000$. These systems, despite flying well can provide only a basic aerial coverage with unclear benefits – and cannot perform protection missions under the category of ISR and anti-poaching in an operational manner, depending on strategy and tactics.
When evaluating UAS for civil uses the entire spectrum must be taken into account,in a thorough process including novice and veteran systems, thoroughly investigated and tested with relevance to the mission, the site, personnel and budget limitations.
Unmanned Aircraft systems (UAS)
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones have become a popular tool, suggested for many civil uses and specifically anti-poaching. Unfortunately, it is common for drones to be selected not due to their compatibility to the needs in the field, but rather due to personal wishes and limited budget, causing an ultimate failure of mission and disbelief in the systems.
The spectrum of possible UAS is wide, ranging from very small platforms to huge aircrafts, varying in platform type, endurance, range, cost, UI and more.
When evaluating UAS for civil uses the entire spectrum must be taken into account, from novice and veteran manufacturers, thoroughly investigated and tested with relevance to the mission, the site, personnel and budget limitations
Manned Aircraft ISR systems
Before Unmanned systems, most aerial Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations we’re conducted from manned aircrafts. In the beginning most of the aerial ISR was conducted by eyesight and binoculars only like in conservation now, but as technology evolved, aircrafts started carrying advanced payloads, communication, sensors, SIGINT, ELINT systems and especially optical systems with day and night (IR) cameras, increasing in range, reliability, and quality.
Most National conservation agencies already use manned aircrafts in their daily operation but with no payloads. The adaptation of manned aircrafts to carry EO payloads is relatively straightforward and cost effective, allowing in a short time to create a great change and empowerment of field operations.
Advanced Camera traps
The defense sector has been using advanced camera traps for a variety of missions. more commonly known as Unattended Ground Covert Imaging Surveillance solutions. These systems are proven, reliable ground sensors - compact, energy efficient, with high survivability and inclusion of today's most advanced communications systems.
Some systems enable sectorial or 360 degree coverage, with wireless All-in-one system providing full communication flexibility (Possible onboard WiFi, Cellular, Wired, and Satellite-optional), remote controlled day&night surveillance, onboard VMD, GPS and Compass - ideal for short and long duration missions, due to its outstanding Size Weight and Power (SWaP) performance.
Short/Medium range ground EO payloads
Closed circuit security cameras are a deep rooted civil defense tool. Their use in the conservation field is not common due to the fact that they effectively cover only a short range, and requires constant attention by the operator, power and communication sources for each unit.
Ground based cameras vary greatly in all categories but increased in relevance due to increased reliability, advanced sensors, and complimentary advanced software providing automatic warnings, movement detection and other tools.
Medium range models can be installed also as mobile units on vehicles with extendable masts, empowering local ranger teams with an elevated point of view, increasing their coverage when needed.
Long range/Scanning ground based EO payloads
Long range and scanning systems increased in relevance due to increased reliability, a reduction of false alarms and better long range coverage, while carrying advanced EO and IR sensors. These advancements we’re also accompanied with improved remote power sources based on batteries or solar panels and improved communication systems.
The use of long range and scanning cameras enables an efficient 24/7 coverage of areas, day and night, enabling coverage of larger areas, with greater distance, demanding less attention by the operator, increasing efficiency and reliability. Systems vary greatly in quality and complementary tools, such as software, power and communication, but must be primarily adaptable to site conditions and needs.
Simple On/Off line Camera traps
Ground Camera traps are a basic tool used in conservation research. In parallel, high-end camera traps have been also used in the defense market, usually as covert systems, for troop movements, terrorist activity, installations and much more.
Their use in the conservation field for anti-poaching is less common due to small coverage, requiring analysis of threats and lack of real time alerts.
The next generation of ground based camera traps evolved in capacity, quality,power and communication while lowering cost.
The use of advanced ground based camera traps requires primarily an analysis of relevant effective locations for deployment. These will provide a 24/7 coverage of suspected small and specific threat areas.
There are several ways space-based technologies can help us understand where species live and why they live there. Difficulties with directly sensing species include the relatively small size of most species, the limitations of the technologies, clouds or vegetation getting in the way, and cost.
Most satellites provide images in lower spatial resolutions (level of detail) that lack the power to detect an individual tree or animal. Still, recent advancements have made direct remote sensing of certain individuals increasingly feasible. For example, a few commercial satellites are now capable of spatial resolutions of one meter or less.
The use of Satellite images for real time civil missions has been difficult but is increasing in use in projects involving conflict and refugees.
Radars - Persistent ground surveillance
Persistent ground surveillance radars, commonly known as motion detection radars are used extensively in the defense market, but are relatively a modern tool in the civil arsenal. The categories main characteristic is its ability to detect movements over an extensive area, 24/7 and almost in all weather conditions.
Motion detection radars have evolved extensively in recent years and have gone from very large, heavy, static, cumbersome systems, used mainly by the military to small mobile units weighing even just several pounds. Their classic use has been to protect strategic installations and can be adaptable to civil purposes - by providing a constant sensor, reacting to any movement in the coverage area and enabling security teams to react effectively rather than attempting to cover entire areas visually.
Defense analysis and deployment software
Security planners face a formidable challenge when designing defense arrays around airports, seaports, borders, military sites, oil and gas plants and other critical infrastructure. Planners have the responsibility to design arrays that optimize complex technological, operational, budgetary and other constraints facing them. Each site brings a unique set of challenges. Some software can provide a change in the way planning is accomplished. Offering analytical and planning tools, site modeling, analysis, and design services to perform layouts of territory and critical infrastructure sites. Placement of fences, sensor towers, response units, cameras and radar locations for each site is done by using a process of scientific and math analysis to produce low risk solutions that are presented to the security professional to examine and use.
Other sensors and software
The main characteristic of protection activity is the fact that in most cases a specific perimeter has to be protected, whether limited by actual fenced or not. In most operations an expert can designate high threat areas and adapt systems and methods to areas according to their expected threat level. Actual fences are the most common basic tool in the HLS arsenal, but even this simple tools has a great internal variety, from simple low fences designated for cattle to high game fences, electric or other with sensors are reactive components.
Fences do not have to be actual physical barriers, but can be replaced or integrated with virtual fencing systems from all types – Acoustic, fiber optical sensors, seismic, motion detection radars, scanning cameras and much more.