Skip to main content

DARPA technology can now be used to save elephants from gunfire

Sensor detects shooting at elephants, helps authorities catch poachers
Conservationists have a new way to monitor Kenyan elephants and track poachers who are after their tusks. Called WIPER — Wireless anti-Poaching Technology for Elephants and Rhinos — the device uses sensors to pick up on ballistic shockwaves and transmit the exact coordinates of an elephant as soon as gunshots are detected.

“Poaching has devastated many populations on which I work and, in response, we have been developing technologies and approaches to provide enhanced protection,” George Wittemyer, Colorado State University professor and chairman of Save the Elephants, told Digital Trends. That includes the 100,000 elephants poached for their tusks between 2010 and 2012, according to Save the Elephants’ estimates.

Save the Elephants
Save the Elephants

In order to avoid detection, poachers often put silencers on their weapons. But even if the sound is muffled, the shockwave generated by supersonic projectiles is not. With just a few sensors on a tracking collar, WIPER can detect these shockwaves and alert authorities to the assault.

WIPER was designed by Vanderbilt University’s Akos Ledeczi, who’d previously worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create similar sensors for detecting and locating muzzled gunfire.

“In the military domain, shockwave sensing is important because the bullets typically fly close to the sensors — vehicles and soldiers — while the shooter may be far away,” Ledeczi told Digital Trends. Meanwhile in law enforcement, sensors are designed to detect muzzle blasts instead, since bullets from handguns are usually subsonic.

Engineers have been trying to use strategically placed anti-poaching sensors to detect muzzle blasts. “The problem is that you need a sensor every few hundred meters, so the solution does not scale beyond a relatively small area,” Ledeczi explained.

Since WIPER can detect gunfire using just a few sensors in an area the size of half of a football field, the researchers say just one device is sufficient to cover an entire herd of elephants. The team’s next steps include field studies in Kenya. It will also try to develop a 12-month battery life for the device.

WIPER is yet another tool in the arsenal of anti-poachers, who are battling to keep African elephants off the endangered species list. They’ve recently deployed drones to track poachers and even scare elephants away from danger.

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
Using A.I., Premiere Pro can take videos from 16:9 to vertical in a few clicks
Man using Adobe Premiere Pro on iMac

How to use Auto Reframe in Premiere Pro | Adobe Creative Cloud

Converting a 16:9 video to a vertical or square shot and back again is about to get simpler, thanks to artificial intelligence. On Friday, September 13, Adobe teased a new Auto Reframe tool headed to Premiere Pro before the end of the year. Powered by artificial intelligence, the upcoming tool analyzes the footage to keep the subject within the crop.

Read more
Cadillac drivers can now find and pay for parking from their dashboards
cadillac embedded parking feature gm marketplace

Driving can be fun, but parking usually isn't. Finding a parking space in crowded urban areas can be difficult. Heading straight to a parking garage can help avoid that, but it's hard to know how much it will cost in advance. Cadillac and ParkWhiz hope to streamline things with a new feature that allows drivers to find and pay for parking from their dashboards -- well before they arrive at their destinations.

The new feature is part of General Motors Marketplace, the in-dashboard ecommerce platform that already allows you to order pizza from a Chevrolet or make Yelp reservations from a Buick. The new parking feature allows drivers to sync Marketplace with a ParkWhiz account, giving them access to thousands of spaces in more than 250 United States cities, according to Cadillac.

Read more
You can now use an Android phone to log in to Google on an iOS device
google android phone physical security key account

Google is making it a little easier to sign into your Google apps and services on an iOS device. The company is taking advantage of the new security key feature in Android to allow people to use their Android phone to log in to Google services on iOS.

The new feature works through Google's Smart Lock app, which you need to have installed on your iPad or iPhone to make the Android security key feature work. You also need two-step verification enabled, and if both of those criteria are met, you will be able to hold down the volume key on your phone to sign in to your services.

Read more