“We were able to conduct successful tests in December 2013 and the drone then returned to the USA for final work. We have been told by Airware, our partners, that an operational deployment will be in place from June 2014,” reads the statement.
It says the drone will be key in containing poaching, especially of the endangered black and Northern white rhinos. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to at least four of the Northern White Rhinos, out of the total world population of six.
The animals were repatriated from a zoo in Czech Republic in 2009 and the conservancy is undertaking a reproduction programme for the rhinos. Ol Pejeta is also home to 39 chimpanzees rescued from smugglers.
Kenya is in the initial stages of developing regulatory frameworks for drone operations. The government has raised a red flag over rising poaching in protected areas, community ranches and wildlife conservancies.
Last month, a report indicated that private ranches and community conservancies accounted for three quarters of poaching cases in the last nine years. Of the 18 rhinos killed this year, 16 were from private ranches and conservancies while the others from national parks.
In the past nine years, some 1,752 elephants and 182 rhinos were either killed or died through natural causes, according to Kenya Wildlife Service statistics.
Some 1,407 elephants were killed in private ranches and conservancies, while 345 in KWS protected parks. The private ranches lost 116 rhinos through poaching while 66 were killed in parks. Kenya has more than 140 private ranches.