Three Montana Middle-Schoolers Built a Drone to Hunt Down Poachers

This poacher-hunting drone could be the new weapon used by fish and wildlife officers all around the country.

Riley Scherer, Tucker Adkins, and Hunter Nixdorf are middle-school students who have been working on a poacher-hunting drone. The drone will be entered into a robotics competition know as the First Lego League Challenge. 

Don't get fooled into thinking this is some small science fair gig. The First Lego League Challenge is held in 80 countries and attracts 28,000 teams of students between the ages of 9 and 16. The team will be giving their presentation on Jan 14 and then head to Bozeman for the statewide completion on the 28th. The top two winners then travel on to the national completion.

The Billings Gazette reported that the drone is capable of searching for poachers and will come complete with a night vision camera that will be moved via the drone's remote controller.

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The students were reportedly inspired by multi-rotor drones already being used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and World Wildlife Fund. They showcased their drone during a test flight last week in an airport hanger.

Matt Ladd, a game warden for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, was one of the privileged few to be there during the test flight. The team spent several hours with Matt in order to learn more about the war against poaching during the prep stages of the project.

According to Ladd, the prototype the students designed is already capable of being used during poaching cases.

"I anticipate, especially for spotlight patrol with a heat-sensing camera, it could be real beneficial," Ladd said. "They're already using them in other countries with military support, like Kenya."

While poaching in other countries is a huge issue, Ladd suggested that is is hard to quantify just how big the poaching problem is in Montana. Despite the fact that most of the poaching instances take place under the radar, most of the documented cases have taken place outside the town of Bozeman.

The students suggested that the deterrent factor of having an anti-poaching drone, or even possibly a fleet of them, could be what gives game wardens the edge they need to combat these issues head on.

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