Darting game by drone with fighter-pilot accuracy

Potchefstroom company Haevic, has recently developed a drone that can be used to dart game.

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The company was launched in 2014, and managing director Dr Gerhard Coetzee says the name is derived from a German word for ‘hawk’.

Among its early projects, it developed drones and software to survey 10 000ha in the DRC using the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI).

After being bought out by Africom Commodities, Haevic started to develop larger ‘endurance drones’ that could cover larger areas. With a flying time varying from three to seven hours and able to carry heavy cameras, the fixed-wing drones opened up an entirely new market.

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One of the company’s helicopter-type products, the SuperDrone, is a hexacopter (six rotors) that has a 40-minute flying time and comes with three attachments:

  • NDVI or infrared camera (ideal for tracking stock thieves);
  • A fertiliser/pesticide/herbicide distributor, with a 2,4kg payload. It can cover between 7ha and 10ha a day. One very useful application is eradicating alien vegetation in hard-to reach areas;
  • A dart gun, comprising a gas canister with two darts.

Hi-tech goggles
The dart gun is controlled via remote control, with the operator/pilot wearing ‘first person view’ (FPV) goggles.

This advanced system means that as you turn your head, the drone moves in the same direction, in a similar way to some fighter pilot helmets.

A laser beam from the drone can be directed onto your target. You then press a switch on the remote control to fire a dart, which is accurate from 25m to 30m. Only static trials have been conducted at this stage; the system will soon be tested on moving objects.

Effective darting at a fraction of the cost
Once the animal has been darted, the drone can be used to follow it until the tranquilliser takes effect. The animal can then be captured or given veterinary assistance as required.

This technology promises considerable efficiency and cost-saving. Helicopters are currently used – at great cost.

Greg Miles is a livestock farmer and Internet marketer.