Autonomous bird abatement drones

The European aquaculture industry produced 1.37 million tonnes of fish in 2017 with a total market value of €5.06bn.[1,2] The worldwide industry is growing by almost 7% annually, yet aquaculture firms can lose up to 15% of their fish to predator birds.[2,3,4]

Currently, physical barriers such as nets or wire cables are used to cover the surface water of the pens, but these are limited in their effectiveness and can be expensive to install and maintain.[5,6,7] In case of high losses, birds are shot - but this is environmentally unstabling, and many birds are also protected.[8,9]

Birds can also be scared away by light, pyrotechnics, and predator sounds.[5] But birds can also acclimate to these, and so they need to be moved aggressively around to remain effective.[8,9] Incorporating such techniques onto one or several autonomous drones could further protect fish farms. Demonstrations have shown that a 10-minute mission can scare birds away for over 2 hours.[10] Furthermore, autonomous abatement can be initiated when birds are detected nearby, and mimicking the bird’s natural enemy - such as drones with flapping wings - could introduce an additional fear factor, thereby increasing the effect.[11]

When will autonomous drones be installed at fish farms to protect against birds?

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[1]European Commission, (2020). Facts, figures and farming
[2]European Commission, (2020). Aquaculture
[3]Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (1989). Report of the EIFAC working party on prevention and control of bird predation in aquaculture and fisheries operations.
[4]Otieno, N. E.,(2019). Economic impact of predatory piscivorous birds on small-scale aquaculture farms in Kenya.
[5]Curtis, K. S., Pitt, W. C., Conover, M. R., (1996).,Overview of Techniques for Reducing Bird Predation at Aquaculture Facilities
[6]European Commission, (2020). Management of cormorant/fishery conflicts
[7]Alceste, C. C., (2017). Advice for managing predatory birds, part 1]
[8]Jeffrey, K. R. et al., (2014). Background information for sustainable aquaculture development, addressing environmental protection in particular.
[9]Bevan, D. J., Chandroo, K. P., Moccia, R. D., (2002). Predator Control in Commercial Aquaculture in Canada
[10]Professional Pest Manager, (2019). Are Drones the New Solution for Bird Control
[11]The Drone Bird Company, (2020). The Drone Bird Solution

By Matthew J. Spaniol