Drone Operations Expand to Malawi
We are excited to announce that drones will soon be flying over the blue skies of Malawi, helping to protect even more rhinos and elephants! Malawi recently gave its approval to expand operations into their country, making it the second country in which Air Shepherd will be operational. The green light was given on June 29, 2016, when John Chikwatu, Director of the Civil Aviation Authority granted formal permission. With clearance in place, our drone “shepherds” will begin flying in two locations, Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, both of which are managed by African Parks, a conservation NGO that manages protected areas and national parks across Africa.
African Parks is our partner organization in Malawi, and they are working diligently to stop poaching, overhaul law enforcement, reduce human-wildlife conflict, and support local communities through education, health and skills development initiatives. They have been the guiding hand from the start of this initiative. According to Andrew Parker of African Parks, an agreement was made last year with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to manage responsibility of both Liwonde and Nkhotakota. As such, initial approval had to be granted by DNPW prior to operations, along with a signed agreement from the Malawi Civil Aviation Authority, in addition to endorsements from the Malawi Police and Defense Force.
The Malawian government is embracing innovative efforts to combat wildlife crime and Air Shepherd’s technology is the perfect fit.
Funding for the project is provided by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), made possible by a grant from Google.org to research, develop, and implement a suite of technologies to stop wildlife crime. As a core partner in Air Shepherd, WWF is also providing technical expertise and on-the-ground guidance for the project.
All of this progress circles back to the amazing team in Malawi, with huge thanks from Air Shepherd to everyone involved, including: Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of DNPW; John Chikwatu, Director of Malawi Civil Aviation; and Patricio Ndadzela, African Parks’ Country Director.
Excitement is building as Air Shepherd continues to answer the call by many African nations to give rhinos and elephants wings!
photo credit: Nicole Franco