Heavenly Shepherds: Farmers watching their herds at night use technology drones


A shepherd takes care of the herd when the presence appears over it. It will descend from heaven and convey important information. It may sound like a nativity scene, but for more and more farmers it is an everyday event – and that a celestial being is an unmanned aircraft.

Corey Lambeth, a New Zealand farmer, originally bought a photo drone, but quickly realized that the device has more practical applications. “I thought I was just” pulling into the sheep and seeing what it looks like, “and it actually worked pretty well,” he says. Now Lambeth uses the drone “almost like another dog” to gather sheep for three years.

New Zealand, where the terrain can be rough and mountainous, is “perfect for robot technology… They have that purpose,” says Sam Watson, an Australian-based aircraft pilot.

“This is a significant time saving process,” says Jason Rentoul, a farmer based in Marlborough, New Zealand, who has been using drones with herds of sheep, deer and cattle for three years. “Some collectors can take four men, each with a minimum of two dogs, and now (with a robot) you can do it with two men and a significantly shorter time.”

It took a lot of experimentation to get to this point. Rentoul bought his first drone after watching another farmer’s video using one of the deer gathering on YouTube. In the early days, robots lost water damage and once, unforgettably, trying to transport a bottle of wine. He tied the bottle to the drone using a fishing line, but “rocked side by side”. The drone would try to correct the movement of the wine “and the bottle would turn in one direction and the robot would try to balance it”, which would turn the wine faster and faster until it finally lost control.

“I (now) try to keep it relatively simple and low cost,” he says. Rentoul considers the drone to be particularly useful in herding deer. Unlike a sheep dog, a drone can overcome bole. The drone also works well for cattle with calves that tend to be aggressive around sheep dogs.

Sheep and goats on a meadow in southern Germany. Photo: Armin Weigel / AFP / Getty Images

This is not the only way his dogs have benefited from air assistance. “They work together, dog and robot. It was surprising how quickly dogs found out. Some dogs did not like the robot at first, and they jumped at it and barked at it, but very quickly realized that the robot was there to help them. When thrown out, they will sometimes have to cross a kilometer through the inlet to reach the sheep herd … and they seem to find supplies faster because they hear the drone and know it will work before “The dogs will also stand under the robot, when they feel threatened by deer or cattle, “that’s their safe place … because the supplies don’t reach the robot. “

Lambeth also learned to innovate. After a period of successful gathering, his herd began to get used to the robot and stopped responding to his presence. And so he became creative. He recorded the sound of barking dogs, and now the sound is playing through the drone. “It’s quite a crack when he saw a drone fly and barked at the sheep.”

Wojtek Behnke, an English farmer based in Shropshire, takes a different approach. Instead of using his robot as a sheep dog, he treats him as a priest.

After watching videos of sheep that were a herd of drones in New Zealand, Behnke became curious and bought his own. He is now participating in the world’s first drone-based “positive association” study conducted by Harper Adams University.

Behnke separated a group of five sheep from the herd and got used to his drone. When the sheep were happy, he began to form positive associations. He hid behind the hedges and threw sheep nuts under the trajectory of the robot. When the sheep learned that their drone had brought snacks, he brought them back to the herd. “In a few weeks I had all 100 after watching the drone.”

Wojtek Behnke using a positive association of herdsman herd using a robot

Wojtek Behnke using a positive association of herdsman herd using a robot

Now, all 300 Sheepdogs can guide the drone over short distances. “It seems to be quite a pleasant experience for them. In the videos I saw ewes bouncing like sheep. They get quite excited about it. “

Behnke believes that this may affect the quality of life of sheep. “We measure“ a life worth living ”… (according to) how many positive experiences they have during their lives and how many negative experiences they have. The more positive, the more their life is worth living. I can imagine that dogs are chasing me and pushing around, it’s probably less pleasant than following something, thinking, “Oh, that’s fun, I’d get something in the end.”

While robots make great accompanying tools for use with sheep dogs and other traditional collection methods, all the farmers discussed in this story agree that the greatest benefit of using them is tracking. Drones work like an affordable set of eyes in the sky, checking the supplies and crops faster and more closely – without disturbing the animals.

Lambeth was particularly grateful for his drones on Christmas Eve. “I and my partner sat at the grill and we heard cows melt.” Before that, it would have ruined their night “went to every single enclosure to see where the water leak was.” Instead, “I sent a robot and saw its water bed collide. It only took me 30 minutes. “It was a modern miracle.

(brandsToTranslate) Drones (non-military)