In Australia, an innovative home-delivery system that utilizes drones to drop packages at customers’ doorstep faced an unlikely challenger. A drone, which was carrying coffee, almost went off-balance – not due to a tech failure, or extreme weather, but because of an angry raven who attacked the device.
In Canberra’s Harrison suburb, Ben Roberts was waiting for his cup to quench his caffeine craving when he noticed the bird attacking the flying device with hard pecks in an attempt to take it down.
It was a battle of aerial dominance that left Roberts quite stunned. Thanks to the large bird’s aggression, the machine struggled to keep flying, although it eventually changes its position and dropped off the item.
Roberts captured the fight on camera. The video clip he managed to record has caught the fancy of netizens all over the web.
The Drone Delivery Program
In Australia, such drones are operated by a program called Wing, which runs in collaboration with Google to deliver small items such as food, medicine, and coffee to its customers. But there has been trouble, as recently large ravens almost brought down at least two such aerial devices in the area.
It would appear that these mid-air battles were triggered due to the nesting season coinciding with a rise in demand for drone deliveries during the lockdown in Canberra. Ravens are known to attack anything that they see as a threat to their nests, including dogs much larger than themselves.
Following these attacks by the birds, the company suspended its drone operations to protect its UAVs and the birds. They informed the customer that they will have ornithologists look into the incident. The company has reaffirmed its commitment to environmental causes, too.
Nev Sheather, the convenor of Bonython Against Drones, told ABC News that 80% of the residents in the area are against the Wing drones.
He said that noise was one of the major concerns, and highlighted that there were reports of dogs going wild and children being too frightened to play in backyards due to the clamor created by these low-flying machines. Residents were also concerned about their privacy due to the cameras placed on the drones.
He also raised concern about the potential impact of drones on the wildlife and environment.
ABC News quoted a Wing spokesperson as saying that to her knowledge, no birds had been harmed in the swooping incidents. She added that direct contact with birds has been extremely rare in the process of making deliveries to homes in Australia. “In the unlikely event that a bird makes direct contact with our drone, we have multiple levels of redundancy built into our operations to ensure we can continue to fly safely,” she said.
Threat To Wildlife?
Ravens don’t seem to be the only birds seeing the drones as a threat. Early in May this year, a drone crashed on the grounds of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Southern California, USA. It scared off close to 3,000 adult elegant terns who were using the reserve as a nesting ground.
The terns, just like the ravens, see the drones as a threat – perhaps as a giant bird or predator. The birds left behind about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs that will now probably never hatch.
It’s not just birds, either. Earlier this month, a viral TikTok video showed an alligator chomping on a drone. The drone was hovering over swamp waters in Everglades, Florida when an alligator grabbed it with its jaw and began to munch it. People were concerned if the reptile was still doing fine after ingesting the drone.
On Twitter, the clip sparked debates about banning drones in such close proximity to wild animals, and about holding the people flying the drone responsible, too. The caption of the clip claimed that the persons operating the drone were not well-versed with its usage.
Drones are a good way to ensure contact-less deliveries in pandemic times. They serve well in wildlife research and photography as well. Careful usage and regulations to ensure that people and animals in the vicinity aren’t harmed are advisable.