LEO nanosatellite operator Sateliot revealed that it has finalised an agreement with South African NGO Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to deploy 5G IoT sensors on vultures as part of a broader effort to combat poaching in Africa.
Under the agreement, Sateliot will provide 5G IoT LEOsat coverage for EWT’s “Eye In The Sky” project, which uses vultures outfitted with GPS sensors as a poisoning detection system in southern and east Africa.
According to EWT, illegal trade has seen thousands of vultures poisoned across the continent, devastating populations and driving them rapidly towards extinction in the wild. Scavenging mammalssuch as lions, hyaenas and leopards, are also severely impacted by poisoning.
The “Eye In The Sky” system uses EarthRanger softwareto monitor the behavioral signatures in GPS-tracked vultures to remotely detect the presence of poison sources and feeding events associated with potentially poisoned-laced carcasses. The GPS-equipped birds send alerts to various front-end platforms, enabling rapid response teams across Africa to react swiftly to poisoning events and decontaminate the sites.
The system presently covers approximately 15 million square km with over 380 vultures of five different species. EWT says that in the past year alone, the system has successfully identified 15 poisoning events, enabling response teams to rescue over 100 highly threatened vultures, swiftly eliminate the poison sources, and decontaminate the scenes.
The addition of 5G IoT sensors enables EWT to leverage NB-IoT in terrestrial cellular networks to track the vultures. Meanwhile, Sateliot’s satellite network will provide continuous coverage outside of terrestrial coverage via standard roaming agreements with operators.
That means EWT and other NGOs can connect IoT sensors via satellite using standard cellular-compatible gear and SIMs, which is overall much cheaper than using specialised satellite equipment, said Alison Janicke, EWT's head of business development.
“This financial relief will enable us to allocate these funds to other critical conservation work,” she said. “Beyond the monetary savings, partnering with Sateliot will also spare us some time and effort spent on fundraising, allowing us to invest that time in on-the-ground conservation activities.”
Sateliot’s LEO nanosatellites support 3GPP’s Release 17 for 5G, which enables NB-IoT to work both terrestrial and non-terrestrial 5G networks. Sateliot currently has two nanosatellites in orbit, and recently secured finding to launch four more this year. The Barcelona-based company plans to launch 64 more nanosatellites over the next 18 months.