Drones for bird control - how it works
Drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), once a futuristic idea, are now part of everyday life changing the way things are done in many industries.
But what about drones for bird control in crops, orchards and vineyards? Are they effective, what are the restrictions and how do they really work?
Most bird species have a natural, inbuilt fear of predators. Anything strange or predator-like flying above them, is perceived as a threat. A drones visual impact and noise, combined with its ability to fly quickly and randomly across an area, means it is quickly perceived by birds as a threat. Combine this with a sound unit producing predator, bird alarm and harassment sounds, you then have a realistic bird predator situation that is extremely threatening and terrifying to most bird species, causing them to flee the area.
Legal requirements: All drones flown in New Zealand need to comply with part 101 of the NZ CAA regulations. Or to fly a drone outside of these rules, this requires certification under part 102 of the CAA regulations.
Part 101 rules include, but are not limited to:
- Height: any drone or UAV must be kept below a height of 120m. This doesn't really effect use for bird control, as the best results are achieved when lower down, nearer the crop. It is something to keep in mind when flying in areas where the terrain changes dramatically.
- Night operation: A drone can only be flown in daylight and not at night, unless it is a shielded operation (see below).
- Airports and restricted airpace: A drone is not allowed to be flown without approval within 4km of an airport, or in restricted or controlled airspace (see www.airshare.co.nz/maps) unless in some cases it is a shielded operation (see below).
- Shielded operation: This means the drone remains within 100 metres of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object. e.g. a building, tower, or trees. Shielded operation can allow drone use for bird control in areas that may otherwise be restricted, but it is import to ensure you are complying with all regulations. Read more on this at: https://www.aviation.govt.nz/aircraft/unmanned-aircraft/intro-to-part-101/#Shielded-operations
- Consent: Permission from the land owner is required to fly over privately owned land. A permit is also required from DOC, for use over conservation land. Most use for bird control, is over land that is owned or operated by the vineyard, so this does not have much impact.
Line of sight: To comply with part 101, any drone or UAV must be kept within line of sight of your own eyes. This means it cannot be flown behind obstacles or through cloud or fog. This also restricts the ability to fly the drone fully autonomously. Approval for fully autonomous (completely unmanned) operation under part 102 may be possible in time, but we are not aware of anyone in NZ that has been certified for this (at this stage).
See more information below on flying semi-autonomously.
Finding a suitable drone
When investigating drones that were suitable for use as bird deterrents in crops and vineyards, we found we needed a drone that could not only carry a bird sound deterrent, but a drone platform that could fly for long periods of time (semi-autonomously), in most weather conditions and was strong enough to handle the extremes of the New Zealand environment. We found the market was lacking in something that was cost effective and fulfilled these requirements. We then embarked on a mission to build from the ground up, a drone platform that would meet these requirements. After 2 and a half years of product development and testing, Enduracopter was born.
Semi-autonomous drones for bird control - how it works
Semi-autonomous flying makes drone use simple. On the computerised drone controller, a map of the area is loaded in. This is then setup with boundary areas and preset points to create flight paths for the drone. The best flight paths to use and the height to fly the drone does depend on the bird pressure, where the birds are living and the time of the day the drone is used. Multiple flight paths can also be setup and used at different times, see image below.
Providing someone is in line of sight of the drone, semi-autonomous flying allows growers to use drones to deter birds, with little flying knowledge and labour input. Enduracopter UAVs, have long flight times allowing them to stay in the air for 40 - 55 minutes (depending on the model). Once the drone returns from it's flight, all that is required is to change the battery before send the drone off again. As the battery charge time on Enduracopter UAVs is similar to the flight time, if 2 batteries are used, the drone can be almost continuously kept in the air.
The effectiveness of drones for bird control - how effective is "effective"?
We believe that Enduracopter UAVs paired with a Birdzout sound unit, are one of the most effective and efficient bird deterring options available, for crops, orchards, vineyards and other large outdoor areas. Growers are telling us the same thing, with use of drones in high bird pressure areas (without netting), proving very successful. If growers can achieve results with drones, with bird damage being no more or less than that with netting, this is an effective means of bird control. Along with lasers and bioacoustic deterrents, the future of bird control is here.