Effective surveillance with drones

From monitoring ‘hotspots’ to counting livestock, the possibilities are endless, says Greg Miles.

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Theuns Bester from Johannesburg has been involved in broadcast television for most of his life and specialises in CCTV security. His latest project, aerial video and photography, was started only a few months ago, after he realised, thanks to numerous enquiries from farmers, that there was an enormous opportunity in agriculture for surveillance. (See his Facebook page: bit.ly/Theunis.)

One of Bester’s partners is a Free State farmer who provides him with insight into exactly what farmers require, thereby helping to make the system more efficient. Bester is also working with an Eastern Cape farmer who needs to monitor remote water points over 20km from the homestead. The problems faced by this farmer are typical of obstacles faced by many: livestock going missing in remote, hilly, densely vegetated areas, and ongoing security problems.

Bester says that the remote water points can be monitored with an aerial drone, but they are also looking at installing fixed IP cameras, which the farmer can access any time with the click of a button on his laptop at home. “Obviously, with the remote locations we would also need to incorporate solar power solutions,” says Bester. A drone can be used for day or night patrols. It can fly for 45 minutes and has a top speed of 120km/h.

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Programmable and convenient
Once the farm has been plotted on a map on the computer and the GPS co-ordinates of areas that require monitoring are recorded, the data is used to programme the drone’s regular flight path. It flies at maximum speed until it approaches the co-ordinates, then it slows down to take live video footage of the ‘hotspot’ from a pre-programmed altitude.

The drone can also be used to search for missing stock. Where it is unable to obtain an adequate visual sighting through dense bush, the drone switches to its thermal imaging camera. Other applications for farmers include counting game or livestock, aerial mapping of farms, and checking pivots and water levels in dams.A blog by Rory Paul highlighting the advantages of drones for farmers can be found at aerialfarmer.blogspot.com.