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Knights with “Wings in the Air” Protect the Endangered South African Rhinos

On World Rhino Day, events are held around the world to bring attention to the imminent extinction of the rhino by poachers to meet the growing demand for rhino horn. Celebrities and politicians alike ask people to stop purchasing rhino horn to reduce the demand and price, but with the rising economies of Vietnam and China, demand is rising and the population of rhinos is dropping. With over 2 billion potential customers and just a few thousand rhinos left alive, public pleas from students and celebrities present little hope that the criminal and terror networks responsible for the killings will stop.

The Kashmir World Foundation (KwF) is challenging students, hobbyists, and academics around the world to develop highly intelligent unmanned aircraft with one goal: seek out and stop the poachers. These “Knights of the Rhinos” will patrol above South Africa’s Kruger National Park and other wildlife refuges with a set of sensors, signal-processing and decision-making tools that enable them to operate independent of human assistance. They will detect, locate and characterize the poachers, providing rangers with information needed to stop the poachers before they can get close to rhinos.

So far, 140 teams and over 1,000 participants on six continents have participated in KwF’s Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge (wcUAVc). In addition, KwF’s Da Vinci “Build a Drone” program and a partnership with Foxcroft School, have engaged dozens of American youth to master and grow drone technology, demonstrating that students can be motivated to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), if their focus is on integrating these disciplines to solve a problem.

On Tuesday, September 22, at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, VA, World Rhino Day was observed with an event focused on the poachers. “Rhino Rights Knight,” as it was called, featured a set of guest speakers who shared stories about the poaching problem and the importance of STEM education in solving this and other world problems:

  1. Grant Fowlds, a conservationist from South Africa, described the problem from his first-hand view, highlighting the artwork of students around the world participating in the Rhino Art Project.

  2. Lew Burridge, STEM Adviser at Foxcroft School, described the impact of mission-focused STEM education for the girls at Foxcroft;

  3. Oscar Mendoza and Alejandro Castanada of Microsoft described their support of KwF and other projects stimulating STEM education with a focus on improving the world;

  4. Princess Aliyah, CEO of KwF, shared perspectives from around the world on stimulating innovation and invention through competition and collaboration to solve world problems; and

  5. Arthur Tisseront and Julia Chirite, both students in the local area, shared their experiences from participating in the World Youth Rhino Summit as representatives of KwF.

There are many opportunities for local innovators and inventors to learn and contribute. Drone Coders workshops are held regularly at the Great Falls Library where people collaborate on writing, testing, and evaluating the software that will give the aircraft the intelligence needed to defeat the poachers. Flight tests and demonstrations are held regularly at Foxcroft School where the emerging capabilities are tested in flight. For those just getting started with robotic aircraft, there is the DaVinci Build a Drone Challenge held regularly at the Microsoft Store in Tysons Corner.

People can make a difference, not just by calling attention to the problem but by participating in the development of the solutions. KwF is also sponsoring collaborative and competitive programs to solve other world problems.

A special thanks to the partners and supports of World Rhino Day and Rhino Rights Knight.

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