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Drones for Good: Danish Prize-Winning Drone to Save Lives of Farmers and Endangered Elephants

With the alarming increase in clashes between local farmers and endangered elephants in Thailand's national parks, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Robotto have launched an extraordinary initiative to tackle this pressing issue head-on. The heart of this innovative project is an intelligent drone equipped with artificial intelligence, hovering 80 meters above high-risk areas where human-elephant conflicts are statistically prevalent. Through its tireless surveillance and analytical capabilities, this Danish drone endeavors to detect and prevent clashes, offering a glimmer of hope for both farmers and elephants in the region.

With 5,000 images stored in its memory a Danish drone hovers 80 meters above one of the places where, statistically speaking, there is great risk of deadly clashes between local farmers and elephants. The drone patrols around the clock in the Kui Buri and Kaeng Krung national parks in Thailand, where wild elephants are increasingly destroying farmers' crops in search of food.

As natural habitats grow smaller, animals have begun to explore the areas outside of their designated sanctuary. In Thailand, fields grow treats that entice elephants to leave their protected area, but this leads to another issue, a deadly issue.

A new drone project initiated by WWF and the Aalborg-based technology company Robotto will now help curb this problem. The drone – which is equipped with artificial intelligence – keeps an eye on the elephants and can even calculate where they are moving to. This provides better opportunities to detect and prevent conflicts before they go wrong.

“It is tragic when direct confrontations occur between people trying to protect their crops and animals forced to hunt for food outside the wild. Unfortunately, it is not possible to employ so many park officers that we can monitor such large areas around the clock, but with drones, we can detect problems early enough that the park officers can avert a conflict," says Bo Øksnebjerg, secretary general of the WWF World Wide Fund for Nature.

WWF wants to curb clashes

The drone project comes after many years of conflict between humans and elephants in the area. The unrest means that 34 percent of households and as many as 70 percent of Thai plantation owners in the area believe that the endangered elephants should be completely eradicated. This is according to a study from 2018 by the international environmental network IUCN. According to WWF Thailand, one person has been killed and three injured, while an elephant has been killed during conflicts.

An adult elephant can eat up to 200 kilos of food a day, and they find it increasingly difficult to find enough food in the wild. At the same time, the elephants love the sweet pineapples that are grown in the area, and it is precisely in these fields around the national parks that people and elephants risk losing their lives.

"Our Thai colleagues have tested various solutions to curb the clashes between humans and elephants. Among other things, they have set up beehives because elephants are afraid of bees. But the lack of space is so great in Thailand that even this solution – which otherwise works well in Africa, among others – cannot completely solve the problem. Therefore, drones will make an extra big difference. In fact, I am absolutely certain that they will save lives," says Bo Øksnebjerg and continues:

"WWF World Wildlife Fund already uses drones to monitor animal populations around the world, but it is ground-breaking that we are now using artificial intelligence to avoid collisions between humans and animals."

Have trained the drone with images from Aalborg Zoo

The Aalborg technology company Robotto has programmed and trained the drone to recognize elephants and their movement patterns. Among other things, the company has done this with pictures of the elephants in Aalborg Zoo.

"We have spent approximately two months programming and training the drone to recognize elephants and their movement patterns. We have done this with photos and videos from the WWF World Wildlife Fund's people in Thailand and Aalborg Zoo. Now the drone has approximately 5,000 images on the retina, so it can easily recognize and send images and information about the elephants' movements to the local park rangers. It makes it possible to track the elephants from a safe distance and intervene if a conflict is brewing – even at night,” says Kenneth Geipel, co-founder and CEO of Robotto.

Can be used to monitor animals in many places in the world

According to the WWF, drones are the future of modern nature conservation. They are already used to monitor and count animal populations, and they can be used to track down poachers or people who engage in illegal logging.

"It is expensive and difficult to monitor large animal populations manually. With Robotto's new technology, we can use artificial intelligence to get even more precise data about the animals, just as we can monitor even larger areas. As we get more data, we will become even better at finding and protecting the world's endangered animals and nature," says Bo Øksnebjerg from the WWF World Wide Fund for Nature.

"It's our goal to use technology and artificial intelligence to do something good for nature and animals and thus res everyone's future. And that’s what we’ve done, we will in principle be able to do everywhere else in the world," says Kenneth Geipel from Robotto.

About the WWF World Wildlife Fund

WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is one of the world's largest and most influential environmental organizations with more than five million supporters globally. WWF has offices in more than 80 countries and more than 1,200 projects worldwide. WWF's mission is to stop the deterioration of the earth's natural environment and create a future where people live in harmony with nature. The Danish branch, WWF World Wildlife Fund, was founded in 1972 by His Royal Highness Prince Henrik. Read more at

About Robotto

Robotto is an award-winning Danish drone software company founded in 2019 that develops drone technology using artificial intelligence and computer vision. The technology supports organizations for, among other things, identification and analysis of forest fires, faster identification of missing individuals, and improvement of resource management across industries – and now biodiversity census.


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