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Poachers hunting the world's most endangered animals could be stopped using night-vision drones loaded with technology from NASA. Hallelujah we hear you say.
The methods used for studying faint stars and galaxies could be used to trap poachers, in a rare collab between astronomers and ecologists - LADs.
The system combines flying drones, infra-red thermal imaging and artificial intelligence to monitor animals at night, when most poaching happens.
The technology works using artificial intelligence(AI) software designed to pick out distant stars and galaxies in images of space that are invisible to the naked eye.
In a trial in South Africa, it was used to pick up elusive riverine rabbits, one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
It's hoped that the heat-sensitive drones will make it easier to track animals such as rhinos and spot poachers hunting them in darkness. We have our fingers crossed.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University worked alongside experts at UK zoos to re-programme the software using thousands of images of animals.
Project scientist, Dr Claire Burke, from LJMU said: "With thermal infrared cameras, we can easily see animals as a result of their body heat, day or night, and even when they are camouflaged in their natural environment.
"Since animals and humans in thermal footage 'glow' in the same way as stars and galaxies in space, we have been able to combine the technical expertise of astronomers with the conservation knowledge of ecologists to develop a system to find the animals or poachers automatically.
"Our aim is to make a system that is easy for conservationists and game wardens to use anywhere in the world, which will allow endangered animals to be tracked, found and monitored easily and poaching to be stopped before it happens."
The researchers 'trained' the software to recognise different types of animals in a range of landscapes and vegetation.
The new technology can scan large areas of terrain and monitor regions that are hard to reach without disturbing the animals.
In May the astro-ecologists will carry out more field trials looking for orangutans in Malaysia and spider monkeys in Mexico. The following month they will carry out a search for Brazilian river dolphins.
Good luck guys.
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