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Scarecrow drone kept bird flu at bay from organic Christmas ducks

Martin after completing his initial training on the first day of obtaining his drone

In North Denmark, a scare drone has kept bird flu at bay in thousands of organic ducks, which are currently headed for the Danish Christmas tables.

Thousands of Christmas ducks are currently on their way to the refrigerated counters and to butchers around the country from poultry breeder Martin Daasbjerg, former director at Dansk And and current employee at Landting Slot A/S, and this is happening after a difficult season in which the poultry breeder has had to use new drone technology to be able to deliver healthy, free-range organic ducks to the Danish Christmas tables.

"It is the biggest holiday of them all, and it is clear that organic ducks here for Christmas are a welcome treat. In the next few days the ducks will be out on the market", says Martin Daasbjerg, who prefers to deliver only "the best of the best", and this typically means an organic duck that has spent 8 or 14 weeks on grass.

Since sometime in November, there has been increased supervision to keep wild birds away from the Danish poultry flocks, because there has been an increased risk of bird flu in Denmark, and for Martin Daasbjerg this has meant that there has been a strong focus on keeping overflying birds at a distance.

Just a single interaction of a seagull with bird flu could mean that many thousands of organic ducks would have to be destroyed instead of ending up on the Christmas table.

"The seagulls can come and cause trouble. They must not be present in our airspace at all, or else it can be devastating, not just for our company, but for the Danish poultry production. And here the drone has done a great job", says Martin Daasbjerg about the latest addition of equipment he has invested in to secure his geese and ducks against dangerous bird droppings and feed thieves.

Aggressive seagulls

And it has been an exceptional year for the organic poultry breeder, who explains that the mink scandal in 2020 has also contributed to increasing the pressure from the troublesome seagulls.

"It has been close to driving us crazy with these aggressive birds we have around us. The worst are the seagulls, because they no longer have food options near the minks, and this means that the seagulls have been driven all the way to the edge. We have seen examples of seagulls that are so far from starvation that they have turned to cannibalism", says Martin Daasbjerg.

When Martin Daasbjerg is not using the drone, the alternatives are shooting down seagulls with a shotgun, and when it is relevant, he also uses a laser to keep the seagulls at a distance. The arsenal also includes machines, that can emit sound via a computer, and then there is also the old-fashioned gas cannon, which makes noises periodically.

However, since Martin Daasbjerg put it into use this summer, the scare drone from Naust Robotics has become the favorite to keep the birds away.

"At first the seagulls were very, very afraid of it, and they were gone for several days. They have gradually understood its existence, but as long as it is in the air it is effective", says Martin Daasbjerg about the drone, which at full speed trumpets the seagulls' own distress calls at 120 decibels to keep the airspace bird-free.


Drone license on a Sunday

You have to take an exam to operate the drone from NAUST Robotics, and Martin Daasbjerg has done that from his home computer. For Martin, he managed to take the exam during one Sunday, and according to the farmer, who has completed 70 summers, it is a great joy and pleasure to be able to set up the drone and scare the wild birds away.

"We haven't had bird flu in our animals, and the drone has been a contributing factor to us keeping bird flu at bay", explains Martin Daasbjerg, who has rented the drone from NAUST Robotics, and who has been very satisfied with the collaboration with the company, which has arisen in the Fyn robot cluster around Odense University.

"Such an invention as NAUST Robotics has made here, I think it's simply brilliant, and their way of servicing us, well, it can't be done better", says Martin Daasbjerg.

Targeting specific birds

NAUST Robotics was initially a bit concerned about how the ducks and geese would react to the scare drone when it was sent into the air to keep the seagulls away, but the targeted use of the seagulls' distress calls turned out to have no significant effect on the domestic animals.

"We quickly saw that already on the second flight the ducks had gotten used to the drone, without seeming frightened", explains Lars Gyldenberg from NAUST Robotics, who is very happy that a farmer who is a bit older like Martin Daasbjerg finds it easy to operate the scare drone.

One of Martin's fields, with geese and ducks roaming freely in the area

But the most important thing is and has been that the poultry producer has experienced great effects from having the flying speaker in the air above his organic herd of ducks and geese.

"Martin has told us that when he has previously scared seagulls away, they return within two hours, but after the first flight with the scare drone it took two days before they again approached the enclosures to look for food. For us, this is good proof of how well the combination of sounds and a flying device works to keep the birds at bay", says Lars Gyldenberg from Naust Robotics.

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