Pigeons have become an integral part of the urban landscape quite a long time ago. Cities are a perfect environment for them – there is always food somewhere, and there are not too many predators in the urban space. But there are a lot of pigeons.
Unfortunately, pigeons are not as great as it might seem – birds and their droppings are very often carriers of microorganisms that cause dangerous diseases in humans. Not to mention acts of vandalism, that is, polluting the city space with pigeon droppings.
Science versus pigeons
Scientists from the Swiss research institute EPFL decided to tackle the latter problem, which also affects the EPFL SwissTech Congress Center. However, instead of using simple and proven methods, they approached the whole matter from the scientific side. The whole experiment began with the installation of a weatherproof rotating camera on the roof of the convention center where it could track the activity of the pigeons on the entire roof of the building.
For 21 days, the camera monitored the activity of these birds and sent all the information to a hastily created neural network, thanks to which the scientists were able to create a rich database of which parts of the pigeons’ roof they liked the most and how their numbers changed throughout the day. After three weeks of such observation, the research team added the last element to their pigeon deterrent system – the small commercial Parrot Anafi drone.
Whenever pigeons appeared on the roof of the convention center, a neural network determined their exact position, and then sent a drone there, which by its very close presence scared the pigeons away. Throughout this experiment, the system operated almost fully autonomously, except for one small detail – due to Swiss regulations, each drone launch had to be authorized by the appropriate authorities, which required human contact.
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In five days, the drone took off to scare away the pigeons a total of 55 times. The creators of this much-needed system claim that it allowed to reduce both the number of pigeons and the time they spend on the roof of the conference center. It all sounds a bit funny, but the roof of this building was already known to attract a lot of people and therefore had to be washed a lot, which is by no means a cheap service.