How a Tribe Battled Loggers With a Drone They Built Watching YouTube - Atlas Obscura
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How a Tribe Battled Loggers With a Drone They Built Watching YouTube

The Guyanese government was not helping the Wapichan.

In Guyana, where forests cover over 80 percent of the country, the threat of illegal logging is ever present. A lot of the time, it’s hard to even know if it’s happening. That’s in part because the country’s population is so small, just 735,000 people to keep watch on 83,000 square miles of country.

But around 9,000 of those residents are Wapichan, an indigenous community living the country’s southern region, where forests are repeatedly threatened. Wapichan community members had long sought ways to fight the loggers, who were threatening their homes, but, according to Quartz, found it hard to persuade the government to intervene, in part because they couldn’t always prove illegal logging was happening.

That’s where drones come in. Or, specifically, one drone, a fixed-wing model that tribe members built, incredibly, by watching DIY videos on YouTube. A camera mounted on the drone captures images of the logging, evidence the Wapichan community can then take to the Guyanese government.

The drone was documenting the forests for months, and the Wapichan’s struggle with combating the loggers continues. “We are the guardians of the forest,” Nicolas Fredericks, a Wapichan leader, told Quartz. “We will not stand for [its] destruction in the name of development.”