Tetchy raven attacks pause Wing drone deliveries in Oz suburb

Wing drone deliveries

Give Wing credit where it’s due. The company has not only launched and grown its Australian drone delivery business despite the headwinds of Covid complications and sustained complaints by certain homeowners, but it’s now even having to fend off repeated attacks by tetchy ravens.

Multiple videos uploaded this week captured Wing drone delivery craft approaching destinations for drop-offs, only to be attacked by ravens as they descend closer to the ground. The swoops have occurred in the suburbs around Canberra, and have become regular enough that flights to the Harrison area north of the Australian capital have been temporarily suspended. All that’s missing is the signature Alfred Hitchcock cameo and the situation could qualify for another animals-go-nuts-on-humans film.

The earliest videos recorded a single raven having at a Wing drone as it prepared to lower a coffee delivery. That approach from above, however, was fairly short-lived (and probably painful for the bird). Subsequent videos and abundant eyewitness accounts say the apparently quick-to learn-attackers have begun striking from the side, where they can grasp onto parts of the copters away from whirring propellers. They’ve also started converging on the vehicles in pairs. By this time next week, they may be using getaway cars and leaving ransom notes.

The feathered strikes began a few weeks back, which coincides with nesting season in Australia for many birds – and explains their increased defensiveness when intruders get too close. Indeed, earlier in September, a drone flown in first-person-view mode near a Sydney beach filmed as it was being assaulted by a determined magpie, which ultimately brought it down.

Raven attacks latest hurdle for booming Wing drone deliveries in Australia

Attacks by birds of prey are also known to increase as young near hatching. It was apparently the likelihood that the Canberra raven attacks will continue until the breeding cycle ends that led Wing to pause drone deliveries in Harrison, where those have been concentrated.

“We’ve identified some birds in your area demonstrating territorial behaviours and swooping at moving objects,” Australia’s ABC site quoted from a letter the company sent to a customer in Harrison. “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.”

That caution is probably a reflection of Wing’s desire to maintain the hard-won and increasingly positive relationship it has with clients despite continued opposition from other locals to drone deliveries.

The company endured sustained campaigns to ban flights that some residents said were too noisy and violated their privacy. Wing responded by building a considerably quieter craft. Other protestors questioned the extravagance of using drones to deliver less-than-urgent orders for toilet paper and coffee (the product carried on most flights suffering raven attacks). Successive COVID-19 lockdowns like the one Canberra and other cities are again going through, however, have trumped that naysaying in the form of spiking business from clients.

In this case, Wing has apparently opted to keep the peace by waiting for the end of the dwindling nesting season, when presumably attacks by local ravens will be nevermore.

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