Sat. May 21st, 2022

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a raven swimming on a drone trying to deliver to a Canberran who wants caffeine.

A battle for air dominance emerges as next season coincides with an increase in demand for drone supplies during Canberra’s lockdown.

Drone delivery service operator Wing has halted flights in the northern suburb of Harrison, while bird experts are assessing the behavior of local ravens to ensure their welfare is ensured.

In written feedback given to a customer, Wing recommended: “We have identified some birds in your area that demonstrate territorial behavior and swooping at moving objects.

“While this is common during the nesting season, we are committed to being strong stewards of the environment, and we would like ornithological experts to investigate this further to ensure we continue to have minimal impact on bird life in our service locations.”

A composite image of a raven and a drone
Territorial ravens have halted drone deliveries in northern Canberra. (

Flickr / Gouldsta and Wing

)

‘It would be like a flying saucer landing in our front yard’

Harrison resident Ben Roberts, who has taken advantage of Wing supplies during the lockdown, managed to capture the video of the raven hitting his coffee order.

“It’s just good to be able to grab a quick brew without having to get in the car, drive to a cafe, mask yourself, interact with other people and unnecessarily expose yourself to Delta when I can just order it for my front yard,” said Roberts.

He was not aware that any birds were injured, but he did support deliveries being stopped while investigations were being carried out.

“We do not want them to be harmed, they are an important part of our environment here,” he said.

“I think I saw them hovering in a trash can the other day … even though I’ve not seen them attack any people, which is good.

“But they are certainly very territorial at the moment.

Birds: 1, Bots: 0

Ornithologist Neil Hermes said ravens were known to attack anything that comes near their nests, especially wedge eagles.

An elderly man with an Akubra hat looking at the sky and holding binoculars
Ornithologist Neil Hermes supported the break with deliveries of wings to avoid interrupting the ravens’ nesting season. (

Delivered

)

“They want to swing dogs and activity around their nets, but drone attacks are new,” he said.

“The bird appears to be completely unharmed by the fact that it has attacked this drone, and given that Wing is not currently flying in the area, the bird probably feels that it has been successful in driving it away.

“[The raven] has won, at least in the fact that deliveries do not happen in the next little while, and it has shown its mastery of space. “

Hermes had advised Wing to stop deliveries if they disturbed nest in certain areas and said it was “a good result” that they had done this.

“That’s what Canberrans wants in the suburbs – is to get the wildlife business going on around us,” he said.

“And when we have any activity that disrupts wildlife, we would like to see practices introduced where we can reduce it and eliminate it if we can, and I think that is what happened in this case. . “

Space to play or pause, M for silent, left and right arrows to search, arrow up and down for volume.
A burrito is delivered to a home in Canberra by drone. (Delivered: Jamie Hengst)

Residents raise concerns about noise, privacy and wildlife impacts

Bonython Against Drones convener Nev Sheather said 80 percent of residents were against the Wing drones when their group door knocked on local residents during a lawsuit held in the south of Canberra.

He said noise topped their “package of worries”, with reports of “dogs going wild” and children being too scared to play in backyards because of the racket created by the low-flying machines.

People also raised concerns about privacy due to the cameras placed on drones and impacts on local wildlife, with anecdotal reports of birds disappearing from the area.

Sheather said a report by Wings, obtained by their group under Freedom of Information, should review the impact on wildlife and the environment.

But he said it did not include any field studies, instead relying on studies conducted abroad.

“None of that was relevant to the drone flights that took place in our suburb,” he said.

“We also thought there would be someone in charge of the trial in the ACT government, but that was not the case and we were asked to send our feedback to Wing.

“It became a game of passing the money.”

A drone delivers a package
Wing is not aware that birds have been injured during collisions with drones. (

Delivered: Wing

)

‘Unlikely incident’ where a bird makes contact with the drone, Wings says

A spokeswoman for the Wing said no birds had been injured during the incidents as far as they knew.

“Anecdotally, we have heard from some customers that they have seen the ravens swimming towards a number of objects in the area, including cyclists, pedestrians, cars and rubbish bins,” she said.

“In the unlikely event that a bird makes direct contact with our drone, we have multiple levels of redundancy built into our operations to ensure we can continue to fly safely.”

A drone flies high over a suburb of Canberra.
There has been a huge increase in demand for Wing drone delivery services during the Canberra lockdown.(

Delivered: Wing

)

She said the procedures allowed the drones to complete their deliveries safely while food and drink remained untouched in the package below.

Wing has been operating in ACT since 2019 and supplies a range of goods including food, coffee, medicine, hardware and office supplies.

Currently, the company supplies only the Gungahlin suburbs of Crace, Palmerston, Franklin, Harrison and Mitchell and has completed 10,000 deliveries to these areas since the lockdown began in August.

“Wing saw a 500 percent increase in deliveries worldwide in 2020 (compared to) 2019, and we continue to grow at a similar rate in 2021.”

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