Wonderful to help Archangel Imaging and UAVAID get a fabulous story in Sifted recently.

Sometimes you get a story that’s so powerful that not even the media’s obsession with COVID-19 can get in the way of seeing it successfully placed.

The pitch was part of my communications engagement with Harwell Campus to help get high profile coverage for some of the companies who recently won Proof of Concept funding from the STFC. To qualify, a Harwell Campus business had to reach out to another organisation to prove its technology would be capable of performing a specific, pre-defined task.

AI and drone combo

Archangel Imaging stood out for the passion of its executives being only matched by that of UAVAID. The former specialises in AI cameras that alert operatives only when something out of the unusual happens. UAVAID has designed a drone that is already being used to build better maps of Africa, monitor crops, protect wildlife and deliver medical supplies to far-flung communities.

Put the two together and you have an AI camera in a drone that will only warn conservation guards when it spots people and vehicles in areas where they are not supposed to be.

Archangel’s already won awards for its static cameras in Africa but now the idea is to cover a much larger area from the sky.

AI and ethics

We had to be careful when seeking to place this article because as soon as you mention AI and cameras, journalists are going to assume it’s intrusive. However, the guys were able to assure Sifted that they never store footage unless an anomaly is spotted and will never be used with facial recognition systems.

The company has a very strong ethical belief that its AI systems will only ever help human guards do their jobs better. Only somewhere being where they should not be will ever be flagged up.

It’s effectively a way for guards to monitor a massive area over long shifts without being expected to pay attention to video screens for hours on end.

Saving wildlife in Africa

The companies have now worked together to show they can spot behaviour in footage shot from a drone. That means in the field it will be able to spot, for example, a person in a position where they should not be, and possibly even detect if they are armed.

It was tough to listen to how poachers operate. To avoid detection they try to work quietly and so animals tend to be darted rather than shot dead with what would be a loud bang. They are then butchered while still alive for their horns or ivory tusks.

It makes detecting poachers harder and makes it all the more special that these two companies are coming together to take detection from fixed sites to a roving drone.

The project is expected to go live this Autumn.

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