(Photo: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Drones are routinely used for almost everything you can think of, from taking elaborate selfies (they're called "dronies") to more destructive military endeavors. But they can also be an effective tool for science — and for municipalities having trouble with geese.
That's the situation Ottawa entrepreneur Steve Wambolt found himself addressing last year. He originally wanted to use his drone to take some aerial photography of his hometown. But when he met with city councillors, he discovered that his remote-controlled flyer could be of use to the city in a slightly more experimental way.
It turns out the city of Ottawa has been trying different ways to dissuade Canada geese from populating the shore line of the Ottawa river. The geese congregate there every summer, which causes a major problem — they poop all over the shoreline. This is mainly a problem because goose feces is poisonous, since it contains lots of E. coli bacteria. High concentrations of the stuff in shallow waters — shallow waters where locals like to swim — can cause infections in humans, particularly children.
The city tried using dogs and fertilizers to get rid of the geese, but nothing seems to work as well as Wambolt's drone.
So using some flashing lights and recordings of a great wolf's howl, Wambolt souped up his drone and created the very first GooseBuster. The idea is to get rid of the birds in a way that's easy and, importantly, humane. He took his invention and headed for the beaches of Petrie Island to try it out.
“I took existing land-based anti-pest technology and put it on a helicopter,” he says. “When I tested it at the beach a few days later it worked remarkably well.”
So this summer, Wambolt is bringing his GooseBuster to more shorelines in both Ottawa and Gatineau. And as word has spread, he says he’s been getting calls from farmers in Ontario and Saskatchewan looking to scare off birds from eating their crops.
You can see the GooseBuster in action here:
But just as not all drones are evil, neither are all birds pests.
In the UK, the Royal Society of Protection of Birds is using drones in a completely different way. They're employing remote-controlled flying machines to protect rare birds across the country.
Here's how the scheme works: the tiny drones are equipped with six silent electric motors and make almost no noise at all. They then fly into remote areas to monitor vulnerable birds and keep track of their nesting patterns and other critical information. The society uses the drones to get closer than humans ever could, and to take valuable video and photographs of the rare species.
"We don't like to put cameras close to nests until the eggs have hatched, because the birds can be prone to deserting the nest," Nigel Butcher, the drone's inventor, told The Guardian. "But with the drone you can scoot it round to confirm the state of the nest. The alternative is having eight or 10 people trampling through a reed bed in knee-high waders causing a lot of disturbance."
Via Modern Farmer