UVic project takes on pesky geese with high-tech laser 'scarecrow'

Just like Luke Skywalker used lasers to defeat TIE Fighters, a group of UVic students are using them to defeat geese — sort of. They've constructed a prototype of a laser "scarecrow" to drive the birds away from farmers' fields.

Geese a problem on many farmers' fields, co-creator says, and lasers especially good at scaring them

At left, a TIE Fighter, the scourge of the Rebel Alliance. At right, geese, the scourge of many a farmer's field. It turns out lasers might be the solution to both these problems (don't worry, no one is hurting geese with lasers). (starwars.com; Andy Clark/Reuters)

Imperial pilots in TIE Fighters aren't the only flying pests that can be defeated by lasers — a UVic project team hopes the geese terrorizing farmers' fields on Vancouver Island can be beaten the same way.

Peter Rashleigh and five other fourth-year mechanical engineering students have developed a system that automatically shines low-power laser light on fields to scare off geese at night.

Rashleigh, a farmer himself, calls it a "high-tech scarecrow."

"Geese are very effectively scared by lasers, especially green lasers, even at very low power levels," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"What we've done is created a device that automatically moves that laser beam across a specified target area — in this case, your field — at regular intervals all night long."

Rashleigh says the device is very low power — even less powerful than most hand-held laser pointers used during presentations — and it can shut itself off to make sure planes aren't impacted.

He says farmers just need to program the corners of their fields for the device, and then it does the rest.

More testing needed

Rashleigh says for farmers on the Saanich Peninsula, where his own farm is, geese are a constant problem because they eat their favourite treat throughout the night — green shoots of grain crops.

"Especially crops like wheat and barley," he said. "They sit there all night and sort of chew away at it, and they can do significant damage to the crop."

Rashleigh says the device needs more extensive testing before it can go to market but says local farmers on the Saanich Peninsula who have heard about it are excited.

"The next step is to basically set it up on a field and see if it works," he said. "Being a prototype, probably something will not work quite as we like, so then we'll iterate on the design and make some improvements and go from there."

"I think people are ready for some sort of solution. Everybody knows we've got a problem and I'm hopeful that this might contribute to solving it."

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West


To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Pew! Pew! UVic students' device uses lasers to scare geese away from crops