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Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Click here for a definition of this term Language of Instruction: English Minimum GPA: 2.75
Click here for a definition of this term Class Standing: Junior Click here for a definition of this term Language Requirement: 0 no minimum language requirement
Click here for a definition of this term Program Type: Group Click here for a definition of this term College or Unit: College of Engineering
High Impact, Experiential Opportunities: Research or Field Work Opportunities Duration: Semester
Click here for a definition of this term Provider: NC State
Program Description:
Namibia: WAO Drones (Fall)
The mission of the fall semester Namibia Wildlife Aerial Observatory (WAO) study abroad program is to assist the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and private landowners of Namibia with the protection of their endangered wildlife.
Participants will study and research how to protect wildlife from poaching and further decimation in Africa using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and other modern technologies. Students will:
  • Design and fly drones
  • Study African wildlife
  • Help protect endangered animals
  • Live, work, and study with NC State and international students
  • Experience the local community and develop cross-cultural communication skills training
Overnight group excursions are also arranged to culturally significant sites throughout Namibia, and other African nature reserves.


Participants will work alongside locals, and in small multi-disciplinary research teams with other NC State students from engineering, zoology, the biological sciences, and other disciplines. Research topics include:

  • Study of animal behavior
  • Optimizing drone use in African terrain
  • Day and night terrain mapping
  • Animal counting
  • Anti-poaching strategies
  • Required Courses
    • MAE 495: Special Topics in MAE, Wildlife Engineering in Namibia or MAE 416 or MAE 480 (3 credits)
    • MAE 496: Research in Wildlife Engineering (3 credits)
    • IPGK 295: Interdisciplinary Perspectives GEP (6 credits)
  • Elective Courses
    • ZO 486: Zoology Capstone: Wildlife Conservation in Namibia (3 credits)
    • ZO 410: Introduction to Animal Behavior (3 credits)
    • ENG 331: Communication for Engineering and Technology (online)
    • Tentative - AFS 240: African Civilization (online)
  • NC State Program Cost
  • Program Dates
    • August 6 - October 15, 2019
  • Location
    • Naankuse, Namibia
    • With overnight and week-long excursions to Neuras and sand dunes.
  • Contact
    • Program Director: Larry Silverberg,
    • Engineering Advising: Cheryl Tran,
    • BioSciences Advising: J. Campbell,
  • Eligibility
    • 2.5 GPA
    • Junior standing
    • Not on active disciplinary probation
    • Not on academic integrity probation currently or during the prior semester
Geographically, Namibia is approximately six times larger than North Carolina, but the entire population is about 2.1 million people. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South Africa and Botswana to the South and East, respectively. Program participants will reside in the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, approximately 30 minutes by car from the country's largest city and capital, Windhoek. The Wildlife Sanctuary has a large and diverse population of free-roaming wild animals, such as giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, springbok, jackal, kudu, hartebeest, and others. It's sunny with low humidity and low precipitation, and an average fall temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Experience
Participate in the development of a first-of-its kind, wildlife aerial observatory (WAO) that protects wildlife and enables scientists to study wildlife behaviors. Study native wildlife (cheetahs, springboks, giraffes, zebras, etc.), witness the natural beauty, and work closely with the local people. Read this article from NC State News for a glimpse into the program and this student experience to hear about one participant's experience with the program.
This course is being offered as a semester abroad, combining lectures and field work. It provides background information on African landscapes and wildlife, as well as managing parks and wildlife populations. The course highlights and investigates the reasons, the extent, and possible solutions to the international wildlife trade and poaching. A large part of the course involves practicing and applying technologies to monitor wildlife populations, data analyses and interpretation.

Lectures: African Landscapes; African Wildlife – Species; African Wildlife – Behavior; Population Dynamics; Counting Techniques; Park Management; International Wildlife Trade; Poaching
Field Work:  Identify and discuss species at Naankuse; testing and practicing to fly UAV’s; downloading, analyzing and interpreting data; meetings and discussions with MET staff.

About the Program Staff
Program Director and Instructor:  Dr. Larry M. Silverberg,, manages a research & development program in unmanned aerial systems that supports funded undergraduate and graduate student projects and provides customers with aerial system solutions to their problems. The wildlife aerial observatory (WAO) is being built as part of this research and development program. The WAO will act as a field station where wild animals can be protected and animal behaviors can be studied like never before.

Assistant Director and Instructor: Dr. Werner Dorgeloh, is a wildlife expert. He was born and raised in Namibia, and has taught classes addressing wildlife conservation, technologies that assist in wildlife conservation, and issues vital to protecting wildlife. Additionally, he has led NC State study abroad programs to Namibia for over a decade. 

On-site Program Assistant: Joe Manning,, is a Doctoral Student in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He brings broad engineering experiences to this project. Since 2008 he has served as a forensic engineer for accident reconstruction, since 2012 served as chief operating engineer for a family owned (his family) candy company called Butterfields, and is currently co-leader of the “Kitty Hawk”  project in which a student-built autonomous, vertical take-off-and-land fixed-wing drone is set to fly autonomously across NC (about 800 km). This study abroad project and his contributions to the development/deployment of WAO, are in partial fulfillment of his doctoral degree requirements.
Participants will live at Naankuse, a sanctuary setup to accommodate student groups. All participants will be staying at the Naankuse Lodge and Sanctuary’s bush camp. Lodging will be in two or three person rustic chalets or heavy-duty safari-style tents. Tents and chalets include attached bathrooms with showers. The program also includes three meals a day. Participants will have the opportunity to visit the capital city of Windhoek (less than an hour away from Naankuse) on weekends. Graduate Assistants along with faculty and on-site staff will monitor and coordinate day-to-day activities.
The University reserves the right to alter the program format and/or costs in case of conditions beyond its control. If the program is canceled or a student withdraws, a refund of program costs may not be available in all cases. Please refer to the Study Abroad Office Refund Policy for details. Contact us at:

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2020 02/01/2020 02/15/2020 TBA TBA