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Dummy drone is a scarecrow

Bird deterrent drone company keen on developing new products.

By Grant Ullyot I

n last fall’s edition of B.C. Berry Grower, we introduced readers to the use of aerial drones to deal with the predatory bird problem affecting blueberry farmers. Now the developers of the drone system have expanded their operations by adding a ground control element.

“We call it an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or scarecrow,” says Doug White, who together with his partner Johann Sveinsson owns and operates Farmers’ Bird Deterrent Science Inc.

“The scarecrow is a big, long 18-foot pole that is made with a one-inch piece of dowel and PVC pipe. On the top of that pole is a foam cutout that looks like one of our drones,” he explains.

“On the underside of the foam cutout on top of the pole we have installed two electronic whistles. We also have a tiny motor with a propeller on the pole just below the whistles.”

White says it is not necessary to be on the farm to activate the whistles; they can be turned on by using a remote transmitter which has a three-kilometre radius. “The advantage when our aerial drones are not on site is that the grower can readily disrupt the predatory pattern of flocks without being anywhere close to the targeted acreage. Activation of the scarecrow can be done randomly or based on established observed behaviors of the birds.” The whistles underneath the scarecrow sound exactly the same as those on the drones. The motor on the pole beneath the scarecrow starts up and can make the pole sway up to three feet from the vertical, and with the whistles blowing the birds think the drones are on site.

Fearful conditioning

“As you know, we condition the birds to be afraid of the drones. So when the birds hear the whistles and see the scarecrow moving back and forth they soon clear the field.” White says conditioning the birds with real drones takes about two weeks before they are afraid of it with the whistles going. Once the birds have shown they are afraid the scarecrow can be used because the birds can’t differentiate between the two control systems. This advantage, says White, then allows them to move into a new field and begin to condition a new bird infestation because they can activate the scarecrow remotely up to three kilometers away.

The new scarecrow system was field tested last summer on Rajinder Lally’s farm in Abbotsford over the last third of

10 British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2015

the growing season. White said he and his partner designed and built the new system in their offices in Vancouver. While the scarecrow system has proven to be very effective, White suggests that it should not be left in a blueberry field for more than 10 days at a time before being re-located. “Something we are going to do in this coming year is implement the use of video cameras in the fields as well. We will put those on poles and they will feed back into our computers. We are going to use our video cameras to establish the pattern on various fields as to when birds invade a field and when they leave.

“This will give us a clear picture of the amount of bird pressure on any given field and will be effective in helping us to determine when to use our scarecrows. So this year we will be using the combination of our video cameras and the scarecrows along with our drones.”

The additional bird control systems will increase the cost to the blueberry grower a bit, but they will always give the grower an option, says White.

“For example, we have just completed a proposal for a grower for the coming year giving him two options. The first includes just the basic drones to chase the birds away, and the other option which is more aggressive includes the use

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