Tech

Google Wing drones grounded in Australia after bird attacks

Some of Google parent company Alphabet’s Wing delivery drones have been grounded by angry Australian birds.

As reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and filmed by residents of Canberra, ravens have attacked at least one of Wing’s drones during a delivery run.

Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is currently in COVID-caused lockdown. It’s also coming into spring – a time when local birds become a menace in the leafy city. Magpies are a particular hazard because they swoop passers-by who they deem to be threateningly close to their nests and the eggs they contain. Being swooped is very little fun – magpies dive in, often from a blind spot, snapping their sharp beaks, and can return two or three times on a single run. Swooping is intimidating for walkers, and downright dangerous for cyclists.

Canberran ravens can also attack perceived threats, including drones, as shown in the footage below.

Youtube Video

Wing has responded by halting operations in the suburb where the footage was shot.

In a statement sent to The Register, a Wing spokesperson said “In the tens of thousands of deliveries we’ve made to homes in Australia this year, instances of direct contact with birds has been extremely rare.

“To our knowledge no birds have been injured during the swooping instances, and anecdotally we’ve heard from some customers that they’ve seen the ravens swooping at a range of objects in the area, including cyclists, pedestrians, cars, and garbage trucks,” the spokesperson added.

Operations in one Canberra suburb have nonetheless been suspended.

“We are committed to being strong stewards of the environment,” the spokesperson added, “and we have, and continue to take advice from ornithological experts, to ensure any potential impact to birdlife is minimal.”

The drone that came under attack appears to be one of Wing’s newer craft, which use the best of multi-rotor and conventional aircraft design as depicted below.

Wing says demand for drone deliveries has – pardon the pun – soared during Canberra’s lockdowns. The outfit is proud that its craft are carrying take-out food, groceries, and medicines in the city.

The drone attacks are not the only animal incident in Canberra this week, with the tweet below depicting a kangaroo rescue in a park about 2km from Australia’s Parliament House.

Incidents like the above are one reason the city is often referred to as “the bush capital” – a name earned by its substantial swathes of parkland and adjacency to vast national parks (which may or may not contain carnivorous killer koalas). ®




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