Ravens declare war on drones in Australia

With all these developments about the drone industry working with other stakeholders to safely integrate drone technology in the busy airspaces of world cities, one would think all the relevant players have been consulted by now.

Governments. Aviation authorities. Municipal authorities. Low flying manned aviation companies. Network providers. Environmental conservation lobbyists…


Well… apparently not.

Somebody must have forgotten to consult the birds.

And they are really angry about it.

So angry that in the last few days, some ravens in Canberra, Australia have launched an offensive against the delivery drones used by drone company Wing to bring packages into people’s homes in the city.

And you’d have to do nothing but marvel at the timing of this onslaught – it was only a few days ago that Wing, the drone company belong to Alphabet (the parent company of Google) – was popping champagne, celebrating its 100,000 flights milestone; which is rightly a real landmark achievement for a delivery company not involved with delivering medical supplies.

“(Drone) technology has enabled our customers in Logan (just outside Brisbane in Australia) to start their days with more than 10,000 cups of fresh barista-made coffee in the last year, delivered right to their homes,” Wing said in a statement to celebrate the milestone last month. “As their kids transitioned to remote-learning, parents have ordered more than 1,700 snack packs to keep break times interesting. And we’ve made more than 1,200 hot chooks (that’s Australian for roasted chicken) fly just in time for dinner.”

And it was just as this story was stating to grow wings spreading around the world that the ravens hit in Canberra.

Attacks have been concentrated in the suburb of Harrison, and they have been so consistent that Wing has been forced to suspend operations in the area.

“We’ve identified some birds in your area demonstrating territorial behaviours and swooping at moving objects,” ABC quoted one message advising a customer in the area.

“While this is common during nesting season, we are committed to being strong stewards of the environment, and would like to have ornithological experts investigate this further to ensure we continue to have minimal impact on birdlife in our service locations.”

Wing has just celebrated 100,000 flight missions

Apparently, the ravens come into the picture only at the time when the drone has slowed down and is ready or in the process of unloading its package.

The first recorded attack is said not to have gone well for the bird, as it swooped in on the unsuspecting drone from above, obviously with no regards for the propellers, which gave the bird some discomfort forcing it to abandon the ambush. But with more practice and field experience, the ravens are getting more adept in this turf war against the machines, as they are now approaching the drones from the sides and avoiding the rotors.

They are working in in groups too.

Of course, delivery drones have been designed with redundancies in place to ensure that they are able to continue on their mission or to return home in case of a system failure, but a spokesperson for Wing said no danger as visited their drones or the birds yet.

“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, the spokesperson said.

“However, in the tens of thousands of deliveries we’ve made to homes in Australia this year, instances of direct contact with birds have been extremely rare.

“Anecdotally we’ve heard from some customers that they’ve seen the ravens swooping at a range of objects in the area, including cyclists, pedestrians, cars, and garbage trucks.”

Ben Roberts, a Harrison resident who has been a regular user of Wing’s services to deliver his coffee, and recorded one of these battles, confirmed that the ravens are feeling pretty confrontational of late.  

“We don’t want them getting injured, they’re an important part of our environment here,” he said. “I think I saw them swooping a garbage truck the other day … although I haven’t seen them attack any people which is good.

“But they are certainly very territorial at the moment.”

An ornithologist contacted for comment opined that the birds were most likely doing this because they were protecting their nests.

Well; that is one way of looking at it. We could have sworn that these birds were sent by a rival company to sabotage the progress Wing is making in bringing general package delivery into people’s homes…

We bet Wing are praying that the birds have not learned to go for the packages themselves yet.


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