In conversation with Nilesh Singh,
Wildlife Drone Pilot
Nilesh Singh is a Wildlife Drone Pilot at the Sariska Tiger Reserve. At Sariska, he is part of the aerial surveillance team that oversees tiger movement, and variations that occur in vegetation density.
He has a master’s degree in Wildlife Conservation, and is interested in social media marketing. As a creative writer and Instagram marketer, he helps businesses grow in the digital space.
More on Nilesh, and the kind of work he does at Sariska…
Could we first talk about Sariska, the place where this story is set?
Sariska is a beautiful location in the Alwar District of Rajasthan. It is surrounded by hilly terrain and a landscape that is visually delightful. People living here are warm, welcoming and culturally rich. As a wildlife student, Sariska fascinates me because it is home to diverse flora and fauna.
The Sariska Tiger Reserve stretches over an area of (approximately)1200 km² - a landscape that presents deciduous forests, grasslands and rocky hills. This area was a hunting preserve of the Alwar Maharajas and was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1958.
Could you tell us about the work you do at the Sariska Tiger Reserve?
I work with a very experienced team on conservation management and research, and the data we collect holds scientific, ecological and cultural significance. Primarily, our drones are used to track tiger movement - something that is difficult to do, using conventional on-the-ground methods.
As a drone pilot, I am responsible for effectively and safely piloting an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (or drones as they are popularly known) within a territory assigned to us. Based at a ground station, I operate the drone using a hand-held console, or computer interface.
My job can be interesting in more ways than one. I have actually seen tigers, leopards, pangolins, crocodiles and hyena from very close quarters. And there is so much to see out here when it comes to rare migratory birds as well.
Has drone technology taken aerial surveillance to a new plane?
Oh yes, monitoring wildlife with a remotely controlled “hover-craft” has come a long way. We can now collect complex scientific data in difficult and inaccessible terrains, in shorter time frames. Earlier methods using ground-traverse data collection are tedious and time consuming.
Drone technology on the other hand has taken surveillance to the next level, enabling a wide range of monitoring and data collection possibilities. We use aerial videography to understand the terrain and natural resources around our focus areas, and our role also includes aerial surveys of vegetation density. Villagers are dependent on the forest for food and shelter, and if these basic needs are under threat, relocation is necessary.
What does the future look like in terms of a career?
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but with my expertise I would like to improve design and functionality aspects in drone technology. And make drones suitable for other applications where aerial surveillance can add a whole new visual dimension. The sky’s the limit out here.
That’s a lot of ground to cover, and I need to clearly chart my own flight-path in this line. In parallel, I also plan to fuel my interest in digital technologies – these two focus areas are related in some way.
All images used are courtesy of Nilesh Singh – drone pilot
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