Press Release

Helping Endangered Species From Space

By SpaceRef Editor
January 7, 2015
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Official figures suggest this year will be the deadliest yet for rhinos, breaking the 2013 record of 1004 deaths from poaching. A new idea using space telescope technology could help rangers in their difficult fight against illegal hunters.

Three students from Cranfield University in the UK are drawing on high-resolution imaging technology originally developed for space telescopes, using it in an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, to help rangers in their battle against poachers.

“Our proposal intends to develop lightweight and autonomous UAVs for observing in two main sectors: wildlife conservation, and search and rescue,” explained Idriss Sisaid. He and fellow students Enrique Garcia Bourne and Edward Anastassacos won this year’s Space Solutions University (S2UN) Challenge, set by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office.

With the ESA-patented technology “Imaging Optics and Optical Device for Mapping a Curved Image Field”, the team’s Horus project could produce realtime aerial imagery at a lower cost and offer greater responsiveness than existing alternatives.

Installed on UAVs, it could monitor large areas, helping rangers to know where poachers are hunting animals like rhinoceros and elephants. 

“ESA patent 561 presented us with a platform technology to produce inherently high-quality, non-distorted and wide-angle images,” said Enrique.

“When applied to UAVs, this allows far greater coverage and improved performance when compared to UAVs with more traditional cameras.”

Similarly, wildlife conservation requires constant coverage over vast areas to counter poaching. In providing rangers and non-governmental organisations with this crucial monitoring ability at limited cost, Horus could boost effectiveness and efficiency.

“Our success in ESA’s Challenge is the first step of the project,” notes Edward. “Continued development of the imaging system based on the ESA’s patent will bring us one step closer to the prototyping phase. We look forward to seeing our idea take flight.”

The team is now assessing how best to develop their idea, perhaps at an ESA Business Incubation Centre, with the objective of turning it into a viable business. 


In emergencies, when every second counts, the UAV can scan large areas in real time, providing response teams with detailed information for immediate use. 

SpaceRef staff editor.