The Little Ripper Group has just undertaken a major UAV training program with the Cape York Development Group working with indigenous rangers in the remote north of Queensland.
The rangers from Coen and Aurukun have undergone a UAV training program with specialist trainers from the Ripper Group.
The Cape York Development Group have had a feral pig control and monitoring project (and sea turtle nest protection) running for the past 5 years. The aims have been to reduce feral pig populations and monitor how the environment responds to that reduction. The main things the rangers monitor are the wetlands (a primary source of food for pigs) and the turtle nests (a source of protein). By using drones, the Rangers are trying to put more of the monitoring in the hands of the Indigenous Rangers, and have them doing the work themselves. In the past, monitoring has been largely conducted by scientists/experts with a little bit of input from rangers. By this co-operation and training from The Ripper Group, the Rangers are trying to change this and find ways that rangers can do high resolution monitoring without the need to study for years at university.
Currently, the main purpose for the drones is to take aerial images of specific wetlands and calculate the amount of pig damage as a percentage. In the past The Rangers used very laborious methods to estimate the pig damage on a lagoon, and these efforts only provided low-resolution data anyway. They’ve had a scientist from CSIRO use drones on and off over the years, and with the change of laws it is now easier for us to use these as a monitoring tool.
The rangers are from 2 different groups. One group is the Kalan Enterprises rangers, from Coen. The other are the APN Cape York rangers from Aurukun, based on the South Wik Homelands. The rangers picked up the drone skillset quite easily.