Aerial Support Unit

flown from Feb 2019 to September 2023
flown for conservation
flown for anti-poaching
flown for student training

Aerial Support

Our Airwing Unit is constantly working to evolve and develop the aerial component in counter-poaching and other conservation management techniques. These are some of the areas in which this unit plays a vital role.

Aerial patrol and monitoring

Our airwing unit is actively involved in providing support from above in counter-poaching patrols and Field Ranger deployment. The Savannah light sports aircrafts we use are capable of flying low and slow when necessary, and are incredibly quick in terms of response time. These aircrafts are an invaluable addition to the patrol team in that their presence in a live operation actively disrupts poacher activity on the ground. Our aerial unit also plays a vital role in data collection and monitoring of wildlife in our area of operation, which has grown to incorporate about 500 000 hectares. Consistent monitoring of the bush aids in the effective management of wildlife and biodiversity in the Greater Kruger Park. 

Ground-to-air training

Ground-to-air training teaches the professional communication techniques between units on the ground and units in the air during counter-poaching operations and other conservation activities. Ensuring ground cover teams can properly communicate with aerial teams is vital to the success of Field Ranger deployment, locating target species in darting or notching activities, monitoring active anti-poaching pack dogs, and in all follow-up operations. We now offer this training as a part of all our advanced Field Ranger courses. 

Supporting Partners

Department Contact Info

Airwing Unit 

Southern African Wildlife College

Bruce McDonald
Contact Bruce

Mon – Fri 9:00A.M. – 5:00P.M.

Social Info

Online courses

Rhino notching and rescue operations

Rhino are darted from a helicopter and individually ear-notched for identification and research purposes, while a transmitter is fitted to the horn and implanted in the body of the animal. Our aircrafts play a valuable role in locating the animal and co-ordinating the exercises from above. Not only is the aerial support unit important in notching exercises, but it is often the difference between life and death for vulnerable rhino calves that have been orphaned in poaching incidents. Wandering and weak calves can be spotted on routine patrol flights and can subsequently be rescued thanks to this quick detection.

Advanced flight training and support

Our aerial support unit also offers advanced flight training to selected students who use aircrafts in conservation management or counter-poaching operations in their home countries. Adding an aerial component to anti-poaching activities is a game changer and the more trained pilots out there, the better. Our flight training courses include bush-flying techniques, short field techniques, and game count and counter-poaching aerial coverage training. Additionally, the hangar on campus is now the control centre and head office for all counter-poaching operations within the central Kruger region and Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR), that fall under the management of the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation (GKEPF).

Support the SAWC's
Air Wing

Donate via direct deposit:

Account name: SAWC Bathawk Project

Account number: 330928295

Account type: Standard Bank – Business current account

Branch name: Hoedspruit

Branch code: 052752