Today is Animal Day, a good reason for us to reflect on the sometimes difficult relationship between animals and drones. We all remember the video of the angry chimpanzee knocking a drone out of the sky, and not long ago a drone pilot was taken to court for disturbing a herd of cattle with a drone. Fauna and unmanned aviation seem like a difficult combination. Fortunately, there are also many positive things to report about animals and drones. If you want to see more about drones, visit ‘Let’s Fly Wisey‘ for more details.
Like many other technological developments, drones can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of animals. For example, many birds see a drone as an annoying intruder in their habitat and will do whatever it takes to chase it away. YouTube is teeming with videos showing how gulls, geese, and other birds attack drones. The Dutch police go one step further and even train sea eagles in defusing unwanted drones.
In some cases, animals that live on the ground also dislike drones. Cows and deer, for example, can panic if a drone flies low overhead, and in some cases even flee. A year ago, a forest ranger from Staatsbosbeheer issued a ticket to a drone pilot in such a case in the Oostvaardersplassen. However, he allowed the case to be heard and the judge did not find it proven that there was a deliberate disturbance of the peace. Most people understand that you should not fly a drone above a bird nesting area during the breeding season. However, the question is whether drones should by definition be banned from nature reserves because in many cases there is nothing wrong and no animals are disturbed. Staatsbosbeheer also uses drones themselves. The organization is therefore not firmly against drones in nature reserves but would like to see more clarity.
Not only animals living in the wild, but also pets can sometimes react unpredictably to drones. It won’t be the first time a curious dog jumps up on a drone and gets injured on its muzzle. As a drone pilot, it is therefore always wise to be extra alert to pets in the immediate vicinity during take-off and landing.
Tracking down fawns and meadow birds
Fortunately, there are also countless positive developments when it comes to animals and drones. In the Netherlands, for example, drones with infrared cameras have been successfully used to detect fawns in lawns that are about to be mowed. The same technique is now being used to trace the nests of endangered meadow birds, and thereby bring the eggs and chicks to safety in time in case of danger. Then there is the example of the anti-syrup drone, also developed from Dutch soil. A team of young researchers wanted to use drones to detect rhino poachers from the air, among other things. In the meantime, a lot of work is being done on software that automatically triggers an alarm based on advanced image recognition when there are suspicious situations. The same software can also be used by farmers to count cows.
In addition, drones are now being used in countless places around the world to conduct research into animals in their living environment, both on land and at sea. For example, drones are used to count sharks and catch whale snot, and tomorrow you will read an article on Dronewatch about scientists using drones to track sea turtles. Drones are also useful for animal protection at sea: the international organization Sea Shepherd uses drones to chase illegal fishermen away. Drones have the advantage that they can easily reach places that are difficult to reach by people, and can be equipped with all kinds of sensors to collect data. If used responsibly, drones can therefore mean a lot to animals. And maybe animals just need to get used to the humming devices in the air, just as they once had to get used to racing traffic and flying planes.