The cattle in Queensland, Australia, are now under attack from drones in a robot round up.
With cattle properties 1.5m hectares in size, which can take three months to muster (or herd, to non-mustering folk), graziers are turning to technology to locate and move their herds in outback Queensland.
“We believe this new technology is going to bring more efficiency. As the technology gets better we think we’ll be able to send the drones out to go and get cattle,” says drone operator and pilot Cameron Parker.
Helicopters have long been used in beef production in Queensland because of the vast areas that need to be covered, but now the much cheaper option of a drone is taking off with farmers.
Cameron says: “The way we handle cattle has been passed down through generations. My children are staring to fly drones now. But the most important thing we are passing on is how to handle cattle properly.”
The cattle themselves seem a little perplexed being wrangled by this new flying foe and need to be trained themselves.
“Because they’re prey animals their natural instinct is to run away, so when you first introduce them to this drone you have to do it in a spot where they can’t run away because their natural instinct is to run away,” says Cameron as he demonstrates drone mustering to a group of onlookers.
Drones have even been fitted with thermal cameras to locate stock in the remote far reaches of properties, so farmers can direct helicopters and stockmen to an exact location, taking the guesswork out of mustering.
“[It's] not only for mustering and cattle handling; it’ll go out and check fences and troughs – things like that. So I think we’ll be able to use them for those types of things to save driving around.”
While they haven’t superseded the trusty working dog or steed yet, when these workhorses get tired, all their owners need to do is replace the batteries.
Australia is one of the first countries to regulate the commercial operation of drones, and mustering pilots must have an operators certificate and meet a number of conditions set out by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.