Use Of Drones For Nuisance Wildlife Control Situations

Entry-Level Drones

Mid to High End Drones

Drone Laws And Regulations

When To (and Not To) Deploy Drone Harrassment

Drones For Canada Goose Control

Drones For Pigeon Control

Drones For Agricultural Crop Damage Control

Predator Calls

As prices go down and as drone technology improves, we can see many more possible drone applications for use in wildlife rehabilitation, especially in rescues and in addressing nuisance situations.  Imagine being able to return a nest of baby squirrels back to the top of a tall pine using a delivery drone, or assisting a community in addressing their Canada Goose problem before they call the USDA to round up the whole flock.  

  • You could assess renested wildlife without needing a ladder or climb a tree.  Need to check up on those 2 owls that were returned to their nest?  Take a peek using your drone.
  • If you receive a call from a concerned citizen who thinks a goose on a lake might be sick or injured, fly your drone over for a closer look before heading out on the water.  Or maybe use the drone to try to herd the goose closer to you.
    • We've actually used a drone to slowly herd our domestic geese back into their pen at night.  Just keep the drone about 15 feet away at all times and advance it slowly as they being to walk.

"Predator" Drones

But what about using drones as a means of humanely addressing nuisance wildlife situations?  Not only is it feasible, it's already been done.  Bird-X offers the ProHawk® UAV which is a drone that is fully autonomous.  Just set the GPS coordinates and it will launch, patrol and land on its own.  That, combined with sonic predator sounds, appears to be effective in harrassing the target species.  We're not sure of the cost, but you might be able to acheive similar results using a drone and a separate predator call simultaneously.

 

Entry-Level Drones

There are several types of drones.  The most common are entry level drones which are affordable, and would be suitable primarily for homeowner use in nuisance control.  Their battery life (around 7 minutes) and their range (a few hundred feet) makes them suitable for smaller tasks such as scaring raccoons away from trashcans, chasing starlings away from purple martin houses, herding geese off your lawn, and patrolling a backyard garden.  These types of drones also come with cameras which can be used to either record aerial footage, or be viewed live from your smart phone or tablet.  Although the battery life is short, you can purchase extra batteries to extend flying time.  For entry level cameras, you should look for the following options:

  • Camera
  • RTF Ready To Fly - drone is ready to use out of the box
  • FPV First Person View - you can connect your phone to the drone's camera and watch as if you were in the air
  • Headless - These are easier to fly because there's no specific nose; the drone can try in any direction since there's no specific forward or backward position
  • Quadcopter - The drone has four blades

Entry-level drones suitable for residential wildlife control range from $50 to $250.  We don't have a lot of drone experience outside of the two entry-level Syma models we use, which have been very reliable.  Links to those are provided below.

Mid to High End Drones

Mid-level and higher end models of drones offer many of the same options that entry level drones offer, with additional options available.  These drones are use-specific; some are made specifically for aerial camera footage, delivery drones can deliver packages, gps drones follow a specified gps path, racing drones focus on speed, and endurance drones are meant to cover long distances for long periods of time.   Mid-level drones have a battery life of 25-30 minutes with a range of up to 5000 meter.  We've included links to DJI drones because their Phantom 4 is already being used in the agricultural industry for crop monitoring, surviellance and data gathering.  DJI offers a wide range of options which allow you to customize the drone according to your needs.  Mid-level drone prices range from $800 to $12,000, and high-end commercial or enterprise-level drone prices usually starting around $14,000+.

 

 

Drone Laws And Regulations

It's important to familiarize yourself with federal as well as any state laws or regulations related to drone use.  View the comprehensive list of FAA's federal regulations by visiting https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/

  • Drones weighing more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds much be registered with the FAA
  • Drones must be marked with your registration number
  • Fly your drone at or below 400 feet
  • Keep your drone within your line of sight
  • Be aware of FAA Airspace Restrictions
  • Respect privacy
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Do not operate a drone from a moving vehicle
  • Fly only during daylight or civil twilight 
  • Drones may not be used for spotting, tracking, or flushing wildlife for the purpose of hunting
  • USFWS - Pursuit, harassment, or an intentional disturbance of animals during breeding, nesting, rearing of young, or other critical life history functions is prohibited. 
  • USFWS - Launch the UAS more than 100 meters (328 feet) from wildlife.  
  • USFWS - Never approach animals or birds vertically with the UAS.
  • Never pursue, harrass, or disturb wildlife unless you are attempting to prevent livestock, property, or crop damage
  •  

 When To (and Not To) Deploy Drone Harrassment

The timing of harrassment should coincide with activity level of the target species.  You will have greater success if you begin harrassment before the target species have become too familiar with a location.   For waterfowl, begin harrassment just as they are returning from migration and well before they begin nesting.  We strongly discourage the use of harrassment techniques once nesting season has begun.  Not only will nesting parents be very reluctant to leave a location, the outcome for their offspring could be fatal.  If nesting has begun, wait until the offspring are flight-capable to resume harrassment techniques.

Drones For Canada Goose Control

Using drones successfully for goose control falls back on the same principles that are used for traditional canada goose control and requires an integrated management plan.  Harrassement techniques have to begin just as geese are returning from migration.  Success is dependent on conditioning the geese that the location is not safe.  Waiting until they have been present for several weeks, or worse, until after they have begun nesting, will not be successful. 

Combining drone harrassment, predatory calls, and predator silhouettes will greatly increase the likelyhood of success.   The timing of harrassment should coincide with activity level of the flocks.  This may mean observing activity levels the day before harrassment is attempted.  Foraging typically begins very early.  Later, geese will just be mingling about; this is often defined by natural predator activity in the vicinity.  It is important that harrassment occur both while they are actively foraging and then again when they are loafing.  Identify activity patterns.

Initially, harrassed geese may just fly to an alternative foraging site with the intention of returning later.  The harrassment should continue for several days in anticipation of the geese returning.  A good indicator of success is when only a few geese are returning to the site.

Ongoing maintenance should be anticipated at any site which is attractive to waterfowl.  While targeted flocks may have vacated following harrassment, other groups may begin to occupy the property.  Sites should be monitored weekly to determine if further harrassment techniques are necessary.

 

Drones For Pigeon Control

Pigeon roosting on commercial and industrial structures has been an ongoing problem.  Combining Ovocontrol during nesting season and harrassment after nesting season is optimal for properties that already have an established pigeon population.  Pigeon harrassment should begin when temperatures drop and nesting is not likely occurring.  This is greatly dependent on your region, but might occur between September through March.  Aerial harrassment using drones combined with predator calls should occur early in the morning and again late in the day (just before dusk) when pigeons are returning to roost.  Develop a plan to continue harrassment to discourage returning birds and prevent possible nesting.  

The predator calls should be deployed as soon as the drone is deployed.  Within a day or two, the birds will be conditioned to expect the drone when they hear the predator call.  The predator call device should remain, and scheduled to emit calls at timed intervals as an ongoing deterrent.  Repeat drone harrassment if birds return.

 

Drones For Agricultural Crop Damage Control

Drones combined with predatory calls can be very effective deterrents to minimize vineyard or crop damage from birds such as starlings, blackbirds or grackles.  GPS drones are ideal in this situation, where predefined coordinates can be used to automate the path of the drone.  Because the drone is autonomous, workers monitoring crops can readily deploy drones as needed.

Predator Calls

Using predator calls to deter nuisance wildlife can be highly effective when used in conjunction with, or alternated with, other techniques such as harrassment.  Calls are available for a specific species or a wide range of birds, and a variety of ranges/distances; up to 6 acres or more.  

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