A groundbreaking solution for scaring off birds from crops and vineyards is in the works. Manoj Karkee, associate professor at Washington State University, is developing a drone system to solve the problem.

The drone will run 24/7 to deter "pest" birds, like European starlings or crows, that cost growers millions of dollars a year in stolen or ruined fruit.

At the time being, the drones will use motions and noises to scare the birds off. Karkee alluded that these sounds could imitate ‘distress calls’ and ‘predatory bird noises.’ 

“Growers don’t really have a good toll they can rely on for deterring pest birds at an affordable price,” says Karkee, as reported in this article by Manufacturing Business Technology

Karkee and Washington State University ran two different tests which would be spotting the birds and releasing the drones automatically. To prepare, “very small” drones were released for test flights on growers’ fields using simulated birds. 

This test concluded that the drones are successful in scaring the birds off. It also proves that when the birds are driven away, the crop yields are impacted and the damaged fruit have a 50% reduction. 

Karkee has other ambitions with his invention. 

“We could make drones look like predators, or have reflective propellers that are really shiny,” Karkee says. “All of these working together would likely keep birds away from those vineyards and fields. We’ll research that over multiple years to make sure.”

The drone system won’t be available until after more testing and research is conducted. Karkee’s next steps will be to consult with farm and vineyard growers, technology companies and other important sources to put forth this solution. 

Karkee remains optimistic about his project. “It takes time. But the results so far are exciting. We’re looking forward to more work on this project.”