Wing resumes drone delivery in Canberra area of September raven attacks

Wing drone deliveries

Drone delivery company Wing has resumed service to an area north of Canberra nearly two months after territorial ravens grounded its UAVs with repeated aerial assaults.

Google corporate cousin Wing halted its drone deliveries to the Harrison suburb of the Australian capital in September after videos of the ravens attacking its UAVs went viral around the world. At the time, the company explained to clients that the incidents were the result of “some birds in your area demonstrating territorial behaviors and swooping at moving objects” ­ ­– something it said was “common during nesting season.” As a result the company put its activity in the zone on pause until a wildlife expert it consulted had indicated renewed flights would have “minimal impact on birdlife in our service locations.”

That green light to resume aerial activity in Harrison was reportedly given by local bird expert Neil Hermes, who researched the attacks on Wing delivery drones. He eventually determined the swooping strikes had been carried out by a single pair of ravens he’d tracked back to a nest where they were raising three chicks. The tree it was in, it turns out, was close to the home of a Wing customer, so when the drones motored in to deliver their payloads, parental instinct took over and the birds went into protective mode. 

“The birds were defending their young in their nest, during that time when their defensive reactions are at their peak, and it lasted about four or five weeks,” Hermes told Australia’s ABC.net news site. “They were approaching the drones from behind, like they would if it were a wedge-tailed eagle or another predator, and trying to grab it from the back — the tail of the bird — and trying to just encourage it to leave.”

Though Australia has been the most receptive market in the world to Wing’s drone delivery offer thus far, the company has also met some resistance there that has made it extra-careful in dealing with unexpected difficulties. A few Canberra suburbs have been particularly vociferous about what they call unwanted noise and privacy-crimping flights of the company’s UAV – complaints that led Wing to modify its activity in those areas, and introduce quieter craft. 

Similarly, when word got out of the local raven population taking talon-wielding exception to its drone deliveries in Harrisont, Wing quickly opted to suspend service rather than risk injuring those hacked off wildlife residents of the area. 

But with Hermes reporting the nesting season over – and that the three chicks in question had already flown the parental coup – Wing has decided it’s clear to resume drone deliveries to clients who’ve been deprived for the last six weeks. 

“There seemed to be no risk to the birds or the drones, and I wouldn’t expect any repeat of the attacks,” Hermes said of his thumbs-up advice.

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