Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a raven swooping on a drone attempting to make a delivery to a Canberran craving caffeine.
- Drone service Wing temporarily halts its drone deliveries to the Canberra suburb of Harrison
- The company says it has received reports of birds swooping on objects during nesting season
- The pause on deliveries will allow bird experts to investigate the behaviour of ravens
A battle for aerial dominance is emerging as nesting season coincides with a surge in demand for drone deliveries during Canberra’s lockdown.
Drone delivery service operator Wing has paused flights in the northern suburb of Harrison while bird experts assess the behaviour of local ravens to ensure their welfare is safeguarded.
In written feedback provided to a customer, Wing advised: “We’ve identified some birds in your area demonstrating territorial behaviours and swooping at moving objects.
“While this is common during nesting season, we are committed to being strong stewards of the environment, and would like to have ornithological experts investigate this further to ensure we continue to have minimal impact on birdlife in our service locations.”
‘It would be like a flying saucer landing in our front yard’
Harrison resident Ben Roberts, who has been taking advantage of Wing deliveries during the lockdown, managed to capture the video of the raven swooping on 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 up, interact with other people and unnecessarily expose yourself to Delta when I can just order it to my front yard,” Mr Roberts said.
He was not aware of any birds being injured but he supported deliveries being halted while investigations are carried out.
“We don’t want them getting injured, they’re an important part of our environment here,” he said.
“I think I saw them swooping a garbage truck the other day … although I haven’t 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 coming near their nests, especially wedge-tailed eagles.
“They will swoop dogs and activity around their nets, but attacking drones is new,” he said.
“The bird appears to be perfectly unharmed by the fact it’s attacked this drone, and given that Wing are not currently flying in the area, the bird probably feels it has been successful in driving it away.
“[The raven] has won, at least in the fact deliveries are not occurring in the next little while and it’s demonstrated its mastery of the space.”
Mr Hermes had advised Wing to pause deliveries if they were disrupting nesting in certain areas and said it was “a good result” that they had done this.
“That’s what Canberrans want in the suburbs – is to have the wildlife get on with its business around us,” he said.
“And when we have any activity that disturbs the wildlife, we like to see practices put in place where we can reduce that and eliminate it if we can and I think that’s what happened in this case.”
‘Unlikely event’ that a bird makes contact with drone, says Wings
A Wing spokeswoman said no birds had been injured during the swooping incidents, to their knowledge.
“Anecdotally we’ve heard from some customers that they’ve seen the ravens swooping at a range of objects in the area, including cyclists, pedestrians, cars, and garbage trucks,” 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.”
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 the ACT since 2019 and delivers a range of items including food, coffee, medicine, hardware and office supplies.
Currently, the company only delivers to 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 per cent increase in deliveries worldwide in 2020 (compared to) 2019 and we’ve continued to grow at a similar rate in 2021.”