Smarter Scarecrows Guarding Grapes

Jun 28, 2022

Thanks to a team of researchers at Washington State University, scarecrows just got a lot smarter.

Through automated drone technology and vision systems, the team’s drone design can identify and scare away birds that seek to do damage to grapes.

Feeding frenzy: Birds are a consistent problem in the vineyards of Washington, causing millions of dollars in damage. Damage to grapes comes not only from the primary source of bird feeding, but from secondary feeding from insects on damaged, opened grapes.

Scare tactics – how they work: Through a refined computer algorithm, the system deploys a fleet of small drones that detect, locate, count, and deter birds. How? Hovering near them and making whirring noises (sounds kind of like an annoying little brother).

In the future, the WSU team plans to make the drones highly reflective or more similar in appearance to a predator to frighten fowl, scare starlings, and bother birds more effectively.

Soundbite: “Growers don’t really have a good tool they can rely on for deterring pest birds at an affordable price,” said Manoj Karkee, associate professor in WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the study’s leader. “With further refinement and industry partnerships, this system could work.”