An unmanned aircraft on Monday hovered over for about 30 minutes over the Kaziranga National Park in Assam after state Forest Minister Rakibul Hussain inaugurated the test flight, ushering in an era of hi-tech anti-poaching measures at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first-of-its-kind test flight was launched at 4pm at Mihimukh in Kohora range of the park in the presence of a huge gathering and representative of the Switzerland-based aircraft manufacturing company, WWF-India, Wildlife Institute of India.
The test flights will be conducted till April 11.
WII scientist K Ramesh is heading the monitoring team. The aircraft is equipped with one still camera, one thermo camera and one movie camera.
Sources in the KNP informed that encouragingly clear visuals were taken by the aircraft during the test flights. The visuals were monitored in the control room set up at Kohora range.
After completion of the process of test flights, the KNP authority will require permission from the defence authority for permanent deployment of the unmanned aircraft in the KNP to keep a close tab on movements of rhino poachers which have been on the rampage in the park since last year.
Total 21 rhinos, including 17 in Kaziranga, were poached last year in Assam.
Fourteen rhinos have been killed by poachers so far this year in the state, mostly in the Kaziranga Park.
The number of one-horned rhinoceros in the KNP was estimated at 2,329 as per the rhino census carried out by forest department during March 24 and 25 this year.
It was Union Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan who first made the announcement during her visit in October last year about the government’s intention to deploy an unmanned aircraft over the KNP to keep rhino poachers at bay.