The Real Barrier to Drone Delivery? Eagles!

drone delivery

If you’re a Philadelphia football fan — or Frodo at the end of “Lord of the Rings” — you love the eagles.

If you’re James Rennie, you probably don’t.

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Rennie is an Australian entrepreneur who uses drones to create maps. And while most of the debate about the use of drones in the U.S. seems to center around issues involving the FAA and other regulators, Rennie’s story highlights a different obstacle to drone flight: eagles.

Rennie told the Herald Sun:

“One in five of our flights end up with a drone being chased by a wedge tail eagle. They just attack everything in the sky.”

If an eagle breaks one of the drones, it gets expensive. It could cost up to $20,000 for a drone fix.

Since the drones come equipped with cameras, we can see such an attack first-hand. CNN posted a clip shot from the drone’s POV: a view of the countryside, the eagle flying at the camera talons-first, and then spinning.

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The videographer highlights what’s happening:

“This is the last thing a small bird sees when a wedge tail eagle decides that you are dinner.”

The eagle was apparently fine. According to CNN, the drone operator suggested to his colleagues that if they see an eagle — or any other bird of prey — while flying, they should try to land.

And eagles aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom to have given drones a hard time. Other animals featured by CNN included:

  • A chimp at a zoo in the Netherlands managed to down a drone with a stick. She and her fellow apes were caught on camera examining the $2,000 piece of fallen equipment.
  • A ram in New Zealand head butted a drone, then chased after the operator who came to pick it up.
  • Bees in Florida chased down — but apparently didn’t damage — a drone owned by a local news station.
  • A pair of dogs managed to pull a drone down with their teeth.

The first FAA-approved drone delivery in the U.S. happened last month in Virginia, thanks to a small company called Flirtey. The mission of the maiden voyage resulted in a shipment of supplies to a rural medical clinic.

But larger companies  — among them UPS, Google, and Amazon — say they’re still getting into the drone game.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos told the London Telegraph this weekend that drones will one day become “as common as seeing a mail truck.” But he also said that drone delivery is still “years away” because of government regulations.

Golden Eagle Photo via Shutterstock

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Tom Coombe Tom Coombe is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a professional writer for over 15 years, spending most of that time covering news in the Lehigh Valley. He's worked as a reporter for the Allentown Morning Call and an editor for AOL's news service. Tom has also freelanced for WFMZ, the Produce Marketing Association and a number of other publications.

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