Germany is using drones to locate deer hiding in tall grass and protect them from farm machinery. The project, which costs €2.5 million, has the backing of the country’s agriculture ministry.
The project involves deploying small aerial drones, fitted with infra-red sensors, to locate deer, and then fitting the animals with radio beacons that farmers can detect as they mow their fields.
According to English-language news site thelocal.de, it is so far only being trialled in the southern state of Bavaria, but it has the support of the national agriculture ministry and could soon be rolled out further.
Spokesman Ralph Stockum explain the reasoning behind the project: “The problem is that deer often hide their fawn in tall fields near the edges of forests”
“Evolution has created a very effective way to protect the fawns, which do not yet have a sense of smell – they instinctively stay exactly where they are placed.”
Because of this instinct, Stockum explained, the fawns will not move out the way when farm machinery comes towards them, and because the grass is so tall, farmers often do not spot them.
“Unfortunately, there are many years in which the time when meadows are cut in spring coincides with the time when deer drop their offspring… and then many animals lose their lives,” he added.
Stockum said that this can also be traumatic for the farm workers involved, as well as damaging machinery and polluting the grass, which is often turned into animal feed.
Until now, farmers have visually inspected grass before cutting or used trained dogs.