Drones

Autonomous drones may be the ultimate scarecrows ... for pigeons

Autonomous drones may be the u...
Pigeon droppings can damage buildings and spread disease
Pigeon droppings can damage buildings and spread disease
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Pigeon droppings can damage buildings and spread disease
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Pigeon droppings can damage buildings and spread disease

Much as we may like pigeons, they can make quite a mess of buildings and other structures, potentially posing a health hazard. According to new research, autonomous drones may be ideal for harmlessly chasing the birds away.

In the recent study, a team at Switzerland's EPFL research institute started by installing a weatherproof pan-tilt-zoom video camera on the roof of the EPFL SwissTech Convention Center. The building was already known for attracting large numbers of pigeons, which cover the roof with droppings that frequently have to be washed off.

Over a period of 21 days, the camera was used to observe the amount of time that pigeons typically stayed on the roof. Utilizing a neural network that was running on a linked ground station computer, the camera was also able to detect where and how many pigeons were present – it could even estimate their GPS coordinates.

After the three-week period, a Parrot Anafi quadcopter was added to the mix. Over the course of five days, whenever the camera spotted pigeons on the roof, it relayed their location to the drone. The aircraft then took off, autonomously flying to the area and then hovering in place, chasing the birds away. Due to safety regulations, a human operator had to authorize each takeoff, although this hopefully won't be necessary once the system is developed further.

Over the five-day period, the drone was automatically deployed a total of 55 times. Doing so was found to significantly reduce the amount of time that pigeons stayed on the roof, and to reduce the number that landed there in the first place.

The system is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal IEEE Explore, and can be seen in use in the video below.

Autonomous Detection and Deterrence of Pigeons on Buildings by Drones

Source: IEEE Explore via IEEE Spectrum

11 comments
11 comments
Robert Kowalski
Yes, that makes so much sense instead of hanging some net or wires. Overcomplicated solution in search of a problem to solve.
CAVUMark
So how do you know the drone doesn't scare the sh$t out of them thus increasing the amount of roof cleaning needed? The pigeons don't linger so consequently you have more poo per second.
michael_dowling
There is a building with a low roof near where I work. They fly a tethered kite shaped like a hawk over the building,and the pigeons stay away when it is flying. Dirt cheap and effective.
Rick O
I've seen the system that Michael mentioned, with a tethered hawk kite. It's used to scare away seagulls from the roof of a hotel by Lake Erie, and it's made a huge difference.
Username
Eventually the pigeons would figure out that this strange bird is not a threat and ignore it.
Bob Flint
Again hawks, need to hunt, let them do it.
Signguy
When my son was small he would go out into the backyard; but my father-in-law would feed pigeons on a platform in the backyard. I found out that pigeons are some of the dirtiest creatures alive carrying as many as 30 diseases in their poop.
Let the hawks take care of them.
ljaques
Nah. Just hand out free loaves of bread to the homeless and tell them that pigeon sandwiches taste extremely good.
Rick O
ljaques, lol. According to the show "Ghosts" pigeons taste like squab
christopher
How does this compare with ultrasonic repellers I wonder?
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