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The Sky's Not The Limit - Priyesh Kara

Updated: Apr 21

After my interview with Asim, he made a lovely post on LinkedIn about the work that I'm doing on this project.

A range of people from different areas of conservation reacted to it, and I noticed a particular person called Priyesh Kara who had reacted to Asim's post.

Priyesh Kara studied an MSc course called "Wildlife Conservation with Drone Technologies" at Liverpool John Moores University. I decided to reach out to him in order to find out what he got up to during his degree, as it sounded like it could be extremely relevant for my project.

Priyesh was really happy to get involved and answer any questions that I had. A refined transcript of our conversation can be found below!

Refined Transcript

Bailey: What was your degree about?

Priyesh: So my my degree was, at the time, called "Wildlife Conservation with Drone Technologies at Liverpool John Moores University. The goal, essentially, was a degree that was to explore the ways in which drones contribute to conservation in forming not only better practice but efficient data collection.

Bailey: What project did you learn during your degree?

Priyesh: During my degree, we learnt a lot about drones from a technical aspect; they're pros, their cons, the different types, we flew a lot of them on simulators in a drone lab. We then went out onto fields where we also flew them in person. We got to work with astrophysics teams on software that could be used with cameras that are mounted on the drones. We also learnt about various types of drones, their components, how to program flights and write flight reports.

We also spent about two weeks out in Tanzania at the GMERC research centre (Greater Mahale Ecosystem Research Centre). We were in groups of two or three, and we were tasked with mini research projects. my group made objects using sticks and t shirts, and put various coloured bibs on them with the goal of taking images at varying altitudes. This allowed us to assess which kind of colours camouflaged best in the bush, essentially, to understand which animals drones would be able to pick up easily.

Bailey: And what major research projects did you carry out, and what did you learn from them?

Priyesh: So, the goal project that I was working on was to take a conservation drone, so an off-the-shelf drone with an attached thermal camera, to put on an automated flight plan over a game reserve. We purposely chose to make the drone using off-the-shelf components in order to make this technology more accessible to people across the world to prevent issues like poaching. That drone is then taking pictures every X amount of metres and sending images back to a base computer with an artificial intelligence module. This then detects what the objects captures are, and assesses whether it's a dead animal, a person, a car, a campfire, etc. This could then indicate whether there are poachers around, whether poaching has just happened or is about to happen, etc.

So, I then spent hours and hours labelling thermal camera pictures of a study site that we did at Chester Zoo. We flew the drone over Chester Zoo's white rhino enclosure. I took all of the imagery and labelled what a white rhino was, what a car was, etc, with the goal of informing the AI module of what different objects were so the AI would then be able to do that itself, after.

My Thoughts

I found the work that Priyesh has done to be really interesting, and extremely useful for this particular research project. The use of AI in order to detect objects was extremely interesting too, and reminded me a lot of the Cowlog software that Asim told me about and used during his degree.

I think that a combination of the abilities of software like Cowlog, and the use of physical technologies like drones could combine to make an extremely powerful tool for conservation efforts.

I would be interested in considering ways that these technologies could benefit polar bears, as I think there is some real opportunity there.

Thanks again to Priyesh Kara for taking the time to talk to me!

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