DIY drone: South American tribe fights loggers with UAV made by watching YouTube

© Digital Democracy
Members of the Wapichan tribe in the South American country of Guyana are fighting illegal loggers using a drone they built by watching YouTube videos.

Illegal logging is an issue affecting indigenous people around the globe, including Guyana, which has the world’s second-highest percentage of rainforest cover, with 80 percent of the country covered in trees.

However, with a population of just 735,000 people, guarding the country’s sacred land is a challenge.

Tribal members know illegal logging is taking place, but had been unable to prove it to the government – until the DIY drone came in.

The Wapichan tribe took to Youtube to learn how to build their own drone. By watching videos on the subject, they managed to build a fixed-wing drone mounted with a camera donated by GoPro in two and a half days using a lollipop stick as a drill and bowstrings to tie the parts together. The drone is controlled using open source flight tracking software.

The group programmed their hi-tech spy to take photographs every two seconds, allowing them to create stop motion images.

The drone worked, capturing images as it flew. The photos captured the tree poachers red handed, proving that illegal logging was taking place on land that is meant to be protected.

The drone has been recording the illegal activity for months, and the Wapichan are hopeful the evidence will allow them to work with the government to put a stop to the activity that threatens their livelihoods and environment.

The group had been trying to document illegal logging since 2003 by walking through forests to interview people in remote villages.

Asian companies, including the Chinese owned Bai Shan Lin, have been accused of illegal logging in the country, and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission has been accused of corruption, although the new government elected last year has promised to look after resources.

“The days of the free-for-all are over and we need to be more environmentally conscious if we are to hand this country over to our children and grandchildren in the condition that we found it when we took it over from our parents and grandparents,” President Granger said.

The indigenous people have been struggling for land rights since before the country gained independence from the British. When land rights were granted in the 70s, the indigenous people were only granted 15 percent of the land they were entitled to, some of which they have lost to illegal logging.