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Deterrent Drones Fly The Sky To Save Crops
A Washington State University (WSU) research team is using automated drones to keep pesky birds away from valuable crops. The hands-free system can patrol 24/7 to keep starlings, crows and other flying fowl away during daylight and possibly other pests like raccoons and deer away at night.
WSU’s Manoj Karkee says producers who grow valuable grapes, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and apples currently don’t have an economical way to keep pests like crows and starlings away. Losses in Washington alone are estimated at more than $80 million. Field-mounted nets, electronic devices, air horns, and fluttering fabric visual scare devices have limited success because they’re sight specific and don’t cover large areas. The WSU system detects and counts pests with cameras, then deploys drones to scare them away with motion and whirring noises from the rotors. Karkee says other sounds like distress or predatory bird calls could be added. Drones could also be made to look like predators and use reflective rotor blades.
WSU first tested the system with manually-operated drones making random flights, which successfully drove birds away from vineyards, reducing their presence four-fold. The second test showed that driving birds away resulted in 50 percent less damaged fruit. They’re now working with growers and technology companies on a system that can be produced and marketed commercially.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Department of Agricultural Automation and Robotics, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. 99163.

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6