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Birds vs. Drones: The Battle for the Skies Continues

Rob Walker
Tech Columnist
Yahoo Tech
GIF of goose attacking drone

I can’t really overstate how much I enjoyed the brief video we published last week of a hawk taking out somebody’s drone. Apart from being a viscerally satisfying and effectively concise clip, it struck me as an almost poetic comment on the state of nature vs. machinery.

After all, we know that some humans are freaked out by drones to the point that they will blow them out of the sky. But have we thought to poll the animal kingdom on this latest human-made intrusion into their lives and habitats?

And as it turns out, our fine, feathered friends have gone after drones on multiple occasions.

Take a gander at my favorite example: Some guys using a drone to document their golfing get a surprise when, at around the 2:15 mark, an area goose totally clocks their DJI Phantom Vision 2 Plus.

There have been other such incidents. “I must have annoyed a group of birds,” a different YouTuber muses. “They teamed up & started dive bombing my radio controlled phantom drone from all directions, I think they knocked the battery connector loose as I lost control & had a rough landing.”

In this next clip, what appear to be researchers testing a “bio-inspired” drone that sort of looks like a bird learn that its form factor was convincing enough that a passing eagle expertly plucked it out of the sky, flew around with it in its talons, and then discarded the thing (presumably in disappointment, or perhaps disgust).

Here’s a raven menacing a drone, although it apparently fails to take the thing out. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

As you’ve noticed by now, people with footage of bird-on-drone battles often give their clips dramatic-action soundtracks. Like this person, who excitably explains: “ALL TYPES OF CRAZY BIRDS , COCKATOOS, MAGPIES AND KOOKABURRAS SWARMING MY DRONE.”

But at least some people seem to be getting the message that this isn’t just an opportunity to make a short action film. Obviously birds aren’t so crazy about drones, and maybe we ought to respect that: “I was at the park and noticed there was a huge birds nest so I flew up to take a look,” this YouTuber writes. “To my surprise the bird flew at me. The bird was not hurt and I didn’t do this again after seeing their response.” Good call.

Finally, if I can go off-species for a moment, let’s not forget this ram who head-butted a drone — and then went after the thing’s owner when he showed up to retrieve his downed machine, literally chasing the man and his technology away.

Obviously, of course, flying machinery is far more likely to be an issue for birds than rams. But maybe we ought to pay some attention to these early encounters between the avian and our unmanned autonomous vehicles.

I’d say we don’t want this disagreement to escalate.

Write to me at rwalkeryn@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter, @notrobwalker. RSS lover? Paste this URL into your reader of choice: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/author/rob-walker/rss.