Drones to keep eye on forest fires in kudremukh wildlife division

Published: 19th May 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2016 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

Drones

BENGALURU: One of the most sensitive and largest wildlife divisions of Karnataka, the Kudremukh Wildlife Division (KWD), spanning across three Western Ghat-bound districts, will see drone surveillance for detection of fires as also detection of other kind of offences. With 40 per cent of the protected area being grasslands and more than 1,300 families still residing here, most of the fires are reported to be manmade.

KWD Deputy Conservator of Forests Maria Christu Raja told Express, “This year, we are coming up with drone surveillance. We plan to conduct routine reconnaissance surveys mainly during the fire season. This will serve as a deterrent for those who start fires in the deep forest areas.”

The DCF added, “Drones can also help us pinpoint the fire location and aid early detection of fires. We are also working on a project towards setting up of surveillance towers in remote areas with powerful zoom cameras that can be operated from a control room located at the Range office.”

Such surveillance techniques will be a welcome addition to foot patrolling as the average beat size in this protected area is between 20-30 sq km. The DCF added,

“Regular foot patrolling will be key both for detection and deterrence against offences and a vigilant forest guard knows the sensitive areas and time.”

Surveillance by drones will work in this area as much of it is open grasslands, says D V Girish, wildlife conservationist. The northern, eastern and central parts of the PA comprise a chain of rolling hills with a combination of natural shola-grasslands. He adds,

“This idea will definitely work here and with most fires originating in the villages, it will be easy to detect such offences through drones. As it is, the problem for foot patrolling is enormous in this biodiversity hotspot spread across 630 sq km,” he added.

Since foot patrolling is tough and it can get mundane, the DCF adds, “We are working towards making the patrolling more systematic and possibly more interesting through training on various topics including best patrolling practices, observation for offences, standardisation of record of information during patrols, on bird watching and other aspects of natural history.”

Raja said, “We are also standardising the information recorded during a patrol and use it to find spatial patterns of illegal activity/offences. This would enable us to identify sensitive areas and distribute our resources more efficiently in such a vast area.”

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