The sheepdog has been a staple of the countryside for thousands of years.
But a barking drone could soon replace farmers’ best friend.
Ranch owners in New Zealand can now buy a $3,500 DJI Mavic Enterprise drone with an in-built microphone and speaker to allow a dog’s bark to be recorded and played back to herd livestock.
Farmers already use drones to more efficiently find water leaks and count their livestock but now animals can be herded without the use of a dog.
Adam Kerr, a drone specialist from New Zealand’s drone retailer, DJI Ferntech, told RadioNZ more farmers were turning to drones to do ‘dirty’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘dull’ jobs.
And while an older cow might try to lunge at a dog who gets too close they never lunge at drones, according to Corey Lambeth, a shepherd on a North Canterbury sheep and beef farm near Rotherham.
The latest drone model, the $3,500 DJI Mavic enterprise, has a built in microphone and speaker system which means a dog’s bark can play out across a field.
While an older ewe might try to lunge at a dog who gets too close they never lunge at drones, according to Corey Lambeth, a shepherd on a North Canterbury sheep and beef farm near Rotherham
The latest drone model, the $3,500 DJI Mavic enterprise, has a built in microphone and speaker system which means a dog’s bark can play out across a field from the flying device
Mr Lambeth said covering a vast amount of land to check water supplies and livestock is easier with a drone.
He said: ‘Also when we’re lambing we can fly it round. It’s ideal with the camera zoom, going right in, looking at the drone monitor, not even disturbing the ewes.’
Despite the efficiency of a barking drone, dogs have not quite lost their jobs as the technology can be affected by wind and bad weather.
Brett Velicovich, Strategic Advisor at White Fox Defence, told Mail Online: ‘The DJI Mavix Enterprise system is super loud for such a small speaker.
‘When you’re talking about the speaker system you get 30 minutes of flight time. There is limitation but every year the systems get better and batteries last longer.’
Farmers already use drones to more efficiently find water leaks and count their livestock but now animals can be herded without the use of a dog
Farming is the industry that will benefit most from drone technology, according to Mr Velicovich.
He added: ‘There are different industries using drones now such as construction. But a survey asking who would benefit most from the technology found it was farmers.
‘They can use a drone to spray crops. It is meant to take the place of crop spraying airplanes.
‘It is cheap, automated and will spray pesticides and capture every inch of the farmer field for the one or two hours.
‘It’s incredibly cheap to do things that would otherwise take days to do. I’ve seen people herding sheep, trying to look for wild boar which try to kill farmers stock.
‘It makes sense for farmers. The issue has been primarily that they do not understand the technology and they are afraid of it.
‘As more farmers hear about it they’re testing it more. Farmers like to walk their crops so it’s scary to think this will take the place of the farmer.
‘But the point is to make the job easier and efficient. We’ll see more use of that as the technology gets better.’
It comes as drones are expected to become a regular sight as outdoor jobs are made more efficient by the use of a small flying camera.
Ranch owners in New Zealand can now buy drones with an in-built microphone and speaker to allow a dog’s bark to be recorded and played back to herd livestock
Contractors will start using drones to monitor building sites and search for risks, according to Construction Dive.
The only alternative for detailed images of a job site is hiring a helicopter to fly above.
Ryan Moret, of McCarthy Building Cos, said: ‘We started out using drones for things like windows and steel inspections.
‘In those cases, instead of putting someone in a manlift, having to do tie-offs and exposing them to fall hazards — not to mention the cost of equipment rental — we can fly a drone around a building, take close-up photos and if we see anything we can tag the location to deal with it.’
Despite drones improving the lives of those who work outside and need to be able to see vast amounts of space or a large building quickly, the technology wreaked havoc in airports last year.
Rules for flying a drone in the UK include keeping it in sight at all times and never flying it above 400ft.
And a drone cannot be flown near an airport or airfield due to the damage it can do to aircraft if it was to cross paths with a plane.
How drones have caused chaos at airports this year
Drones can cause chaos when they are manned close to an airport.
Heathrow airport closed for around 20 minutes following an incident in 2017 as concerns were raised that drone pilots were deliberately trying to film close encounters with aircraft.
And in October last year, it was reported that a drone ‘put 130 lives at risk’ after nearly hitting an aircraft approaching the airport over the summer.
According to the UK Airprox Board, the flying gadget passed directly over the right wing of the Airbus A319 as it was preparing to land at the West Sussex airport in July.
In December a suspected drone crashed into a passenger plane in Mexico – ripping holes into the front of the craft as it attempted to land in Tijuana.
The crew on board the Aeromexico Boeing 737-800 had to request help in order to land the mauled aircraft after hearing a ‘very strong blow’.
In October, a drone collided with a commercial aircraft as it was approaching to land in Canada.
There were six passengers and two crew on the aircraft and the drone connected with its wing, but fortunately it suffered only minor damage, allowing it to land safely at Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City.
In June a Virgin Atlantic Boeing Dreamline avoided crashing into a drone by just 16ft (5m), in the nearest miss in British aviation history.
At the time, Virgin said: ‘It’s vital that action is taken to regulate the use of drones near airports, and we urge the government to consider further proposals.’
Two months later a drone, flying higher than the 400ft limit, came within 50ft (15m) of hitting a Boeing 737 that was landing at Stansted Airport.