News

Birds targeting technology

By Country News

Birds of prey are an ever-present threat to the emerging drone industry, according to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles director James Rennie.

‘‘If we can get through a whole day without getting attacked, we’re doing well,’’ Mr Rennie said.

‘‘We get attacked once or twice a day.’’

Mr Rennie said they had recently flown missions around Loch Garry and other nearby locations for clients such as Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.

Australian UAV builds its own drones, according to Mr Rennie, and has recently developed covert techniques or technologies for avoiding strikes from birds of prey.

‘‘We are developing a secret way of getting around it,’’ he said without elaborating.

Attacks on drones by hawks and eagles are an increasingly common problem.

Police forces in some countries have even trained birds to protect against the hostile use of drones in populated areas, making use of ancient hunting techniques to fend off the 21st-century technology.

But Australian UAV wants to bring the peaceful side of drone technology to its future Shepparton branch, performing three-dimensional mapping and large-scale surveying for the region’s forestry and agriculture industries.

The drone industry has exploded in size in recent years with commercial operators popping up across the country.

‘‘We were one of the first five years ago,’’ Mr Rennie said.

‘‘There were 35, and now there’s 1305 as of last week.’’

The use of drones is strictly regulated in Australia and falls under the jurisdiction of the federally mandated Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Hobbyist drones, typically those that weigh less than 2kg, do not require a licence, but are governed by numerous rules and regulations.

Hobbyist drones cannot be flown at night and must always be kept within line-of-sight. They must be kept 30m away from people and cannot be flown over or above people.

Any drones that weigh more than 2kg are considered commercial and require a remote pilot licence to operate.

An increasing range of commercial drones are available, with high-end models costing tens of thousands of dollars for the drone itself, and similar amounts for attachments such as specialised cameras.

Greater Shepparton City Council has no ability to regulate the use of drones, but does have policies covering the use of drones for photography or filming.

‘‘If the drone is being used to film footage in a public space, either for TV and commercial broadcast or filmmaking, individuals must apply to council to obtain a permit,’’ a spokesperson said.

Inquiries by Country News with Wildlife Victoria revealed no reported instances of birds of prey being injured by drones, or injured when attacking drones.

—Myles Peterson