Call for Interest: Drones & Radios to Help Farmers Herd Sheep

Sheep
Sheep being monitored by an helicopter drone

Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)) have been used in many circumstances, and more recently with animals from protecting wildlife to helping farmers with agricultural work. The other week Svein-Olaf Hvasshovd contacted myself to start bringing together a larger project to help build drones to assist farmers in Nordic countries at herding sheep in the autumnal months. In most Nordic countries, as well as Scotland, sheep are let loose in the spring and allowed to graze in the woods. This gathering of sheep is rather labor intensive, and Svein-Olaf plans to use drones, in a similar way to currently some farmers use sheep, to herd and gather the sheep. This has already been done in countries such as New Zealand (below) however this is vastly different terrain than Nordic countries.

How would the drones recognize the sheep?

In Norway it is now a tradition to put communication equipment on the sheep, either similar to a mobile phone type device or a radio based one. This can then be triangulated to pinpoint an exact location using the triangulation technology to inform the drone(s) of the location of the sheep. This same technology can then be used to track the sheep while herding them

How would the drone(s) herd the sheep?

The above discussed radio frequencies will be used to roughly track where the sheep are located ready to be gathered. The drone will then pinpoint the exact location using this same location technology. Drones, between one and three, will then drive the sheep along a pre-designed route. These drones will emulate the movement of dogs by having one drone behind the sheep and one to each side. The sheep herds will be moderately sized 5 to 15 sheep.

Will the farmer be involved?

The system will be fully automatic and is intended to be automated with no human intervention. The drones are given a route to follow and will move the sheep back into the farm along that route.

Interested in joining the project?

Anyone interested in this project, either an expert in computer and communication technical and/or sheep research can contact Svein-Olaf directly at sophus@idi.ntnu.no.

Written by Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas September 15, 2015