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Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky (cetusnews.com) 279

schwit1 found this story in the Wall Street Journal: Daniel Parfitt thought he'd found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber. There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle. Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt's drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground... "It ended up being a pile of splinters"...

These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They've even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider... Camouflage techniques, like putting fake eyes on the drones, don't appear to be fully effective, and some pilots have even considered arming drones with pepper spray or noise devices to ward off eagles.

One mining survey superintendent said he's now lost 12 different drones to eagle attacks, costing his employer $210,000. Another drone was actually attacked by nine different eagles, and its pilot estimates eagles are now attacking 20% of all drone flights in rural Australia.
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Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:39PM (#55289495)

    Nature has decided. No, you can't fucking pepper spray an eagle. Give it up.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:45PM (#55289537) Journal

      I hope the eagles knock each and every one of these machines out of the sky. I hope it ends up costing these companies millions, and there's not a fucking thing they're going to be able to do about it. Drone operators/owners are some of the most selfish, self-entitled assholes around, and every time one of them loses one of their drones, I cheer. Good riddance.

      • Anybody got a good recipe for eagle?

      • by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @07:56PM (#55289781)

        After the double bird strike put Sully in the east river, a shocking number of birds were killed in response.

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @08:02PM (#55289805) Homepage Journal

        Best of all, these eagles are listed as endangered and are protected by Australian law. In fact IIRC, the sections of the law that pertain to endangered species impose a "strict liability" standard on actions that injure a member of that species. That means you don't even have to intend to inure one of these eagles. Just being careless can get you serious prison time.

        So pretty much those drone operators have to suck it up.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          Bald eagles have gotten so numerous and are so aggressive that they are considering taking it off the protected list in the USA. Homer, Alaska is over run with them.

          http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story... [go.com]

      • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @08:19PM (#55289845) Journal
        When you are talking about large tracts of land there are plenty of legitimate non-dildastic uses for drones. I doubt someone flying an 80k machine is a drone enthusiast.
      • by Trogre ( 513942 )

        You sound like a car enthusiast describing cyclists.

        Did a drone pilot kill your favourite pet, or do you feel the same way about all operators of remote-controlled equipment?

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @07:01PM (#55289611) Homepage

      Would pepper spray even work on an eagle? Birds can't taste capsaicin; if anything, it's numbing to them.

      It's interesting to see how territorial these birds are. You can find lots of videos on Youtube of them doing things like attacking ultralights [youtube.com] and such. I think they're simply going to have to "eagleproof" their drones. Which unfortunately will make them need to be bigger (and more expensive) for a given-sized payload, since a greater chunk of the mass fraction will need to go into structure.

    • Nature has decided. No, you can't fucking pepper spray an eagle. Give it up.

      Nah but you could probably rig up a sweet net launcher.

    • Not with that attitude

    • Nature has decided. No, you can't fucking pepper spray an eagle. Give it up.

      You could use this......a machine gun armed quad-rotor drone. Problem solved... https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • If we could only teach them to recognize spy drones and target them primarily and frequently....

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      My chickens eat habanero peppers like my grand kids eat chocolate candy. If you hit them in the eye it might bother them, otherwise I think nothing.

  • by jodido ( 1052890 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:39PM (#55289501)
    See subject line
  • . . ..seems like there could be a video game in that. . . .. . .Oh. Nevermind. . . (grin)

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:44PM (#55289527) Homepage

    and they know it. They are defending their position as the master of the sky, deadliest flying living creature.

    They are smart and cunning and strong. They use their ability to fly high to develop a ton of momentum and tear apart their prey.

    Pretty hard to defend against them, they won't back down.

    • ...but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @11:03PM (#55290285) Journal

      I like to watch them hunt and fight. They're magnificent when they hunt, circling up really high, you can see the feathers off the tip of their wings like fingers feeling the air and when they see their moment they pull their wings in close and fall from the sky like they are pulling every bit of speed they can out of their momentum. I can't really express what it looks like in words adequately and video doesn't really convey the amount of height they strike from or how quickly they descend. You can see how and why jet fighters are designed they way they are.

      They also have a sense of humour. I saw a tree full of parrots all squawking and carrying on, they generally leave the tree all at once in one direction as a group. Well, this eagle wasn't having any of that and flew up to this tree and you could almost hear the parrots squawking HOLY SHIT ITS AN EAGLE and scatter, to which the eagle just kind of tilted and kept going, just reminding them.

      They get harassed by magpies, crows and other birds, to which they barely respond, just a beat or two of their wings that the other birds cannot match in power.

      Once, I saw two of them fighting, way up in the sky. They locked talons and fell, tumbling and rolling over each other closer and closer to the ground. I think the loser is the one breaking from the other first.

      Anyway, they are the wedge tailed eagle moments that stick out in my mind that I could share. I saw one up close on the ground once and was a little surprised at just how big it was, the talons, the beak, standing just over a metre high and as I looked into those calm, unconcerned avian eyes I realised it wasn't threatened by me at all, so I'm not surprised they smash drones.

    • No, WE are The Apex Predators.

      • We don't generally eat eagles... the food chain can be considered to have multiple apexes, of which you're right in that we're probably at the top of the biggest one.
        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          No. The biggest one probably has ants, cockroaches, or termites at the top. I *think* the bacteria are too fragmented to have a competitor. And I'm judging the size of the food chain by the mass of it's components.

    • That's almost poetic. You came close to iambic pentameter.

  • deadly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:44PM (#55289531)

    Do we need further reminders that everything in Australia wants to kill you?

  • Seems like you probably shouldn't fly expensive droves in those areas.

  • by Presence Eternal ( 56763 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:47PM (#55289547)

    Aren't birds immune to pepper spray? Wouldn't simply being a drone add a lot of defense? I'd think rotors would break bird bones like twigs or at least hurt really bad.

    • Re:I don't get this (Score:5, Informative)

      by gravewax ( 4772409 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @07:18PM (#55289669)
      wedge-tailed eagles strike at speed with incredible power as they rely on this to stun/kill, they are also very large birds which can weigh up to around 6kg and while the rotors may do some damage the drone will still be destroyed by the impact. They are also a protected species
    • by DeSigna ( 522207 )

      If a drone operator accidentally injured or killed a wedgie, there is potential jail time involved. They're heavily protected, with only about 200 pairs left.

      "They attacked my $80k flying camera" wouldn't be a good excuse, they're a known threat to drone operators and it would be negligent to allow the drone to injure them. Shooting/zapping at, reinforcing the drone to the point where it poses a danger to the eagle or switching from a fixed-wing to a multirotor drone without adequate protection - for the ea

      • by DeSigna ( 522207 )

        Sorry - quick update - Wedgetails are protected, but it's a particular subspecies in Tassie which only has ~200 pairs left. Misread the wikipedia article.

  • by Picodon ( 4937267 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @06:50PM (#55289565)

    The machine ... resembled a stealth bomber.

    Tragically, though flying in broad daylight, it was not escorted by a protective formation of fighter drones, making it an easy pick for the latest Talon strike fighters of the austral Aquiline air force.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @07:06PM (#55289625)

    to fool Mother Nature.

    Hands up if you're old enough to remember that TV commercial!

  • Never thought that birds could be more effective than shotguns... Your move, NRA card-holding privacy conscious anti-environmentalists. Your move...
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 )

      plenty of NRA people are pro-environment.

      By the way, which is more harmful to the environment, the person getting their meat from supermarket or the card holding NRA guy who gets his meat hunting?

    • by DeSigna ( 522207 )

      My self-defense raptor is sitting on my copy of Padlocks Monthly.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Never thought that birds could be more effective than shotguns...

      Your move, NRA card-holding privacy conscious anti-environmentalists.

      Your move...

      As a NRA card-holding privacy conscious environmentalists, I'm rooting for the eagles.

  • Full size gliders. Normally the eagles are friendly enough, and can mark thermals. But sometimes they attack, ignoring the size difference. The go for the leading edge of the wing which would kill another bird. But it is the strongest part of the glider and the Eagles come off second best.

    The eagles generally let you know when they are not happy, first making aggressive movements. Maybe the drones need some wide angle cameras to see them.

    I personally have not been attacked by an eagle, but have been by

  • Not when you have crows in the neighborhood. They frequently mob bald eagles and chase them off. The solution might be to develop a self-organizing swarm of smaller drones that surround and defend the parent (the one carrying the camera).

  • Mr Eagle!
  • Typical Australia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @07:58PM (#55289787)

    All the wildlife there is out to kill you.

  • Fly faster than eagles.
    Or at night.
    Don't piss off sky predators.

  • by Subm ( 79417 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @09:28PM (#55290021)

    You're going to need a bigger drone.

  • One countermeasure to bird attacks is to demonstrate superior flight capability. Of course this requires pre-emptive training of the raptors. A drone can out climb any bird and demonstrating this ability will often serve to prevent aggressive behavior. This is certainly not a cure all but one element of an effective strategy that includes maintaining appropriate situational awareness of one's flight environment of which these birds are a part.

  • Problem solved. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Travco ( 1872216 ) on Sunday October 01, 2017 @09:47PM (#55290087)
    The Problem: Drone flies in a manner the that the Eagles think is either prey or competitor. Solution: Find a flying creature they don't attack - Most likely a vulture(everybody thinks vultures are icky, even other birds) - and imitate it's flight
  • by Plus1Entropy ( 4481723 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @01:03AM (#55290519)

    ... should be the headline.

    It's kinda like when a bull kills a matador, all I can think is "Fuck Yeah!"

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @02:03AM (#55290663)

    There's a species that meddles with what we want to do? Why is it allowed to continue existing? Remove it from the ecosystem.

  • by go-nix.ca ( 581096 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @02:15AM (#55290683)
    Worried about the eagles? Mining companies generally do surveys not to enhance a species' habitat but to destroy it. Oh, we're not allowed to harm eagles? NP, we'll just mine the shit out of their territory, and they can sustain themselves by preying on the leftover boulders. Yummy!
  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @03:32AM (#55290831)
    When an Eagle's talon strikes a Lithium Polymer battery it may not end well for the attacking Eagle. Although the impact of the bird alone is not healthy for such batteries, drones are designed with impacts in mind. Puncture wounds not much.
  • Reminded me of a story my dad wrote back in the 60s: The Wedge-Tailed Eagle [unz.org].
  • This applies not just to people, but to their machines and to any given person-machine combination.

  • An Angry Birds article worth reading.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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