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Beyond the Bale : June 2018
Computational scientist Greg Falzon and mechtronics expert Jaimen Williamson field testing the prototype Wild Dog Alert device. PHOTO: Heath Milne WILD DOG ALERT TO PROVIDE WOOLGROWERS WITH ‘FIRST STRIKE’ CAPABILITY “The off-the-shelf camera traps are unreliable; they miss detections depending on the time of day, the placement of the camera and the direction the animal walks in proximity to the camera trap. As a result, the research team took the decision to build another device from the ground up, using the latest cutting-edge technology. “What we are designing and testing now is a unique prototype with more capacity and capability than any known technology of its kind in the world.” The ground-breaking standalone camera trap device that the team has built to detect wild dogs is currently being field tested in Australian environments, from the tablelands to the rangelands, under realistic conditions representative of where the devices will be deployed, such as sheep properties. WILD DOG ALERT COMPONENTS CAMERA TRAP Notably, the camera trap has a tri-sensor system to detect animal presence, unlike most conventional camera traps that just rely on a PIR (passive infrared) sensor. This means that detection is optimised. It has 360-degree sensor and camera coverage so that the camera device can track and capture imagery of a wild dog on a 360-degree axis. At night the wild dog is illuminated by infrared flashes. “To the best of our knowledge it is the first camera trap device in the world to have 360-degree sensor and camera coverage so that the device can detect a dog approaching from any direction, then take a photo, process the image and send an alert using both 3G and satellite communication systems,” Paul said. Field testing during daytime and night includes evaluating the detector’s range, efficiency and interference from the sun or other environmental effects (such as bugs on the camera lens and shadows from trees that might give ‘false detections’). Another important consideration is to ensure the system is robust under operational field conditions, such that the device can cope with wind, dust, frost, torrential rain and extreme heat. SOLAR POWER A camera trap system of this kind requires significant battery power, so the team has custom-developed a solar panel and battery system to ensure image detection and processing can be done at any time of day. One significant consideration of the battery design is that unlike other remote monitoring systems it is designed to greatly minimise the risk of over-heat that could potentially start a bushfire. RECOGNITION SOFTWARE “There is some seriously complex artificial intelligence incorporated into the Wild Dog Alert Node too,” says Greg Falzon, the brains trust behind the device. “We have incorporated algorithms that can recognise and differentiate dogs from other animals, and that also know when a moving subject (like a shadow, which can trigger off- the-shelf camera traps) is not a dog. “We have an algorithm that uses facial recognition to uniquely identify with a high degree of accuracy individual wild dogs. So our team is really on the cutting edge of global technology. “The Wild Dog Alert Node is our prototype of future technology. We’ve pushed ourselves to do this because we are ultra-motivated and extremely keen to help fix some of the challenges faced by Australian woolgrowers.” SATELLITE COMMUNICATION Another important function of the Wild Dog Alert system is the capacity to transmit a message of a dog detection where no telecommunication network exists. To solve this issue the team has built a satellite transmission component into the device so that remoteness is not a limiting factor to adoption and use. “The team has been testing satellite transmission from different locations in Australia to see whether there are any black-holes in landscapes like gorges and deep rainforest where satellite signals may be impeded. So far, the results have been extremely encouraging, with few locations, even in the gorge country, not transmitting signals,” Paul said. After the prototype is suitably field tested, commercialised and is available for production, it is anticipated that Wild Dog Alert will provide landholders with real-time notification on devices such as a smartphone, tablet, computer or other remote connection device. BROADER APPLICATIONS “The technology built and now incorporated into the Wild Dog Alert is pioneering and has much broader applications for future technological tools,” Paul added. “Interestingly, the device can be programmed to recognise other species, such as foxes. “In developing a prototype system for Wild Dog Alert, the team has also developed many additional software applications that could be made available to interested parties, which represents significant value for money.” Detection sent via satellite system Immediate response Strategic management plan Real time message to farmer. Farmer decides on management action Wild Dog Alert Node (WDAN) set on-farm Wild Dog detected by WDAN WILD DOG ALERT SYSTEM ON FARM 41