Friday, April 18, 2014
They have ravaged the region’s fields for centuries.
But now one west Suffolk farmer has found a novel way to rid his land of pigeons that gobble up his crops – drone strikes.
Richard Maddever, said the six rotor hexacoptor, which he built from a kit at his home in Cavendish and can travel on autopilot at speeds of up to 40mph, has the potential to become a vital tool in the war on feathers.
The 27-year-old, who has now ordered a second larger drone, said he had decided to trial the system to see if there were more effective ways to control birds than traditional scarecrows and gas guns.
He added: “Every spring the pigeons become a real problem on the farm. I have got a real interest in aviation and I thought I’d try it. They are getting a bit cheaper so we thought we would trial it for pest control.”
The unit cost Mr Maddever in excess of £1,000, but could come in for as little as £500 without autopilot – about the same as more conventional, low-tech methods.The entrepreneurial farmer said: “You don’t have to suffer much from pigeons to lose £1,000 of rape.”
It is estimated that more than three quarters of East Anglia’s farmers suffer crop damage. An NFU survey carried out in 2010 reported that without preventative measures pigeons could have cost the region’s farmers between £45 million and £53 million.
Mr Maddever, who said the drone could last 20 minutes in the air, said there were other advantages to using the battery-powered hexacopter for pest control as well as pure speed.
He added: “The autopilot can fly round fields you can’t see, which is useful when you’ve got 500acres of fields. But having said that, it’s quicker and more fun to fly it yourself. As I tell people keeping it fun is half the battle with pigeon chasing; if you’re vigilant you go out and chase two or three times a day and you protect the crop more. So if it’s more fun to do then hopefully you’ll end up with a better protected crop.”
The results have so far been promising on Mr Maddever’s farm.
He said: “I quickly learned the pigeons are more scared when it’s higher, like a bird of prey. They feel threatened by that, but I also put on some lights and a noise-maker just to make sure. The pigeons are long gone before the drone reaches them.”