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Bird Attacks!

Nosebump

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This past weekend I cobbled together a video of the local town where I live. I wanted to capture the public buildings, along with the local park. While photographing the park though, several birds attacked my drone, swooping in and around the thing (-See the very end of the attached video).

My question is:
1. What do you do when this happens
2. Is there anything that a drone pilot can do to avoid these "close encounters"?

Even "winging" a bird would prove catastrophic for a drone, especially when over water!

Amazon Drive
 

Andy.

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I’ve had birds take an interest in my drone but not go into full on attack mode. I did a search on here and somebody had recomended flying vertically as it is not a natural movement for birds so they don’t like it and fly off.
I tried it the last time I had some swifts circling and they did go away.
 

dbj702

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If you anticipate encounters with birds while flying a Mavic Pro, installing the prop cage may do the trick.
 
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Irish-apple

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This past weekend I cobbled together a video of the local town where I live. I wanted to capture the public buildings, along with the local park. While photographing the park though, several birds attacked my drone, swooping in and around the thing (-See the very end of the attached video).

My question is:
1. What do you do when this happens
2. Is there anything that a drone pilot can do to avoid these "close encounters"?

Even "winging" a bird would prove catastrophic for a drone, especially when over water!

Amazon Drive

Immediately go straight up as birds cannot do this ..
 

lisadoc

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While photographing the park though, several birds attacked my drone, swooping in and around the thing (-See the very end of the attached video).
Sorry but no. You weren't attacked by several birds. You were buzzed by a single dragonfly. If you look at your video closely, you'll see what you were actually "attacked" by - a small single dragonfly that did a few loops near your drone.

capture.png



capture2.png


capture3.png
 
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mrreddog

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Good eye....ive had bats come real close when flying at dusk..
 

Nosebump

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Actually, they were birds. One of my spotters (-I had two of my grandsons with me that day "helping"), hollered "birds" from his cell phone (-He was behind the trees watching as I made the turn). He told me (-later) about several that were surrounding the drone. -Usually, I don't have spotters, and was fortunate to have that information. I used the day's activities as an opportunity and excuse to spend time with the grandchildren (That's a hard thing to do at times.).

Since my post, I've done further research and learned a little more. Let me paste a sentence that I copied from a study:
(snip)
“Mobbing” by smaller birds is a pretty effective defense strategy to drive predators (or aggressive scavengers like crows) away from their breeding territory.
(snip)

Apparently, it's not uncommon for a group (-mob) of birds to attack a drone. It's a protective instinct that they have to protect their nesting area. I also learned that the best defense is to climb rapidly, then exit the area. That's something good to know.

As far as protecting against a dragonfly...I don't know. I would think that a dragonfly would avoid birds, since a bird would find them tasty!
 

lisadoc

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Actually, they were birds. One of my spotters (-I had two of my grandsons with me that day "helping"), hollered "birds" from his cell phone (-He was behind the trees watching as I made the turn). He told me (-later) about several that were surrounding the drone.
While I'm not debating that your grandson claimed that birds were in the area of your drone, the video that you provided showed that the "object" circling your drone in the clip was a dragonfly. If you carefully look at the images taken from your video that I attached above (click on any of the images for the full resolution), you'll see that the flying object has 4 separated wings (most apparent in the 2nd shot) with white patches on the outer portion of each wing, and a thin, elongated body (clearest in the 1st shot). I can say, from a cursory review of the photos, that it is almost assuredly a dragonfly and not a bird.

The evidence taken as a whole and in context points to the fact that this was a dragonfly. Anything not in focus from that perspective would have to have been pretty close to the camera lens or flying so fast through the field of view to be blurred. This suggests that it was something very small close to the lens. While it is blurry enough to be difficult to perfectly make out on your video, the object is clear enough to distinguish that it has 4 separated wings and each wing has white tips and darker sections near the "body". Though there are birds with white wing tips, there are obviously no birds with 4 separate wings and bodies that thin trailing behind the wings. You'll notice from the first photo that the thin body is in comparatively somewhat decent focus, while the wings (and white spots) are blurred into multiple ghost images. This means while the body was relatively slow moving through the frame, the wings were beating rapidly enough to capture multiple images per frame.

The fact that you were flying over a small pond also lends credence to the fact that it was a dragonfly, as that is the precise habitat for dragonflies and their hunting territories. Not only can I tell you that this was a dragonfly, I can even also tell you the approximate age, species, and sex of the dragonfly. The dragonfly was likely (due to this coloration pattern and geographic locale), an adult male Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) - a common species in Georgia - or potentially a similar dragonfly species. They use the conspicuous white wing spots to attract a female.

P1010890.jpg

dragon8.jpg

I think if you look at the screen shots from your video clip and compare them to these photos of widow skimmers, you'll see that this explanation makes the most sense in light of the totality of facts, especially the video evidence. Your grandson would have been several hundred feet away from your drone at the time of the sighting (look at the location of your drone in the above shots) and humans are notoriously bad at eyewitness accounts of what they thought they saw. They either a) likely saw a flying object buzzing around your drone and their brains concluded "bird" or b) they saw birds in the vicinity of your drone at other times and connected their viewpoint to the video captured.

Don't take it as an insult that I'm saying you were almost assuredly approached by a dragonfly and not a bird - take it as a cool experience. You captured on video "nature's drone", an insect that beat DJI's engineers in their design by more than 300 million years and a master of flying that literally flew circles around you at roughly 30 mph.
 
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lisadoc

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As far as protecting against a dragonfly...I don't know. I would think that a dragonfly would avoid birds, since a bird would find them tasty!
Dragonflies have exceptional eyesight (arguably the best in the animal kingdom) and he could certainly tell that your drone was not a bird, and therefore not a threat. He was likely just curiously flying around you to check the drone out. They actually can see in UltraHD and have a 360 degree view (meaning they can see in all directions at once). They can not only see all colors visible to humans, they can probably see the ultraviolet color spectrum as well. Dragonflies can also outmaneuver almost all birds on the wing, so a flying object suspended in the air (your drone was basically standing still in comparison to his flight capabilities) wouldn't be something he would intentionally flee from, even if he mistook your drone for a bird.
 
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Nosebump

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VERY cool research, and many thanks for the time and effort that went into your response. My spotters were 9 & 12, with instructions to “hide from the drone” (-remain out of the shot). They were to watch my turn towards the second water fountain that I was going to approach (-as close as I could without washing the drone). Of course as soon as I got the ‘birds” call and saw the blurry streaks, all of that planning was abandoned. I immediately climbed as fast as I could several hundred feet, with the hope that a MP could outclimb whatever was attacking. It worked.

For some reason, I feel less threatened by a dragonfly than a bird, even though it has the same destructive blade-destroying potential. The one take-away from all of this is that a rapid climb seems to be the appropriate response to a bird/dragonfly/ufo attack. That should be our trained response with future incidents.
 
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lisadoc

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For some reason, I feel less threatened by a dragonfly than a bird, even though it has the same destructive blade-destroying potential.
You're correct in feeling less threatened by a dragonfly (and incorrect in thinking it has the same blade-destroying potential as a bird). Dragonflies weigh roughly 400 milligrams and are made of soft-body parts (relatively), while even the smaller bird species in your area (a bank swallow, for instance) minimally weigh 18 grams (or 18,000 milligrams - several orders of magnitude higher) and have dense flesh and bones (though they are hollow). Hitting a dragonfly with your Mavic would have not done a thing (maybe a brief blip in the video and a smudge on the blade) and would have been nothing to even alter your flight for. Even a decent-sized bird would probably not have brought your Mavic down.

People grossly over-react to the threat of birds and significantly overestimate the potential for disaster if they struck a bird with their drone (and almost all birds will actively avoid being struck by a drone - even during the "mobbing" behavior that you cite above). I routinely fly drones in and among birds (for work-related reasons) and I have never had a single instance of a collision or near collision after dozens of flight hours with birds. I don't activate "avoidance behavior" - in fact quite the opposite - and I simply don't have any problems. Personally, I think that an abrupt, unpredictable increase in altitude would be more likely to catch a bird off-guard and potentially initiate a collision, than remaining in place or flying predictably.

People also think that their Mavic will fall out of the sky if they hit something but these are tough little drones. If you haven't watched the video of Mavic "toughness" tests, check out the one below. If a full bottle of water striking a Mavic a few meters off the ground isn't enough to cause a crash, hitting a small bird at much higher altitudes will probably not cause a crash either. Not saying that it can't happen, but most worries about bird "attacks" echoed on this forum (and others) and conclusions from analyzed flight logs that a Mavic fell out of the sky because it hit a bird mid-flight are probably overblown.

The one take-away from all of this is that a rapid climb seems to be the appropriate response to a bird/dragonfly/ufo attack. That should be our trained response with future incidents.
I know that this is the common conclusion drawn by most drone pilots on the Internet (based on their extremely limited understanding of bird behavior and flight) but as one that has spent many hours in the air around birds in flight (both with drones and manned gliders), I disagree with this conclusion. Yes, if a bird was actively "attacking" your drone (likely only with much larger raptors - though I fly routinely with them as well with no issue), this may be decent advice, but with almost all instances of birds and drones, the advice to simply "act normally" and ignore the birds is probably better suited for the situation.

I think the other takeaway is that no matter what humans think they saw, it is filtered through their experiences and biases and we are far better off reviewing the actual data (or video in this case) than believing eyewitness accounts. It's the same reason we should take all of the "drone" sightings by manned aircraft pilots and other such instances with a large grain of salt, because, as we have been decrying on this forum throughout a multitude of threads (check out the peeping drone thread or the airport shutdown thread as two very recent examples), everything sighted flying in the air is not automatically a drone and we shouldn't jump to those conclusions and instead we should evaluate the relevant information in context.


 
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Nosebump

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This is where we must respectfully disagree. In your response, the word "probably" came up just too many times, and in aviation, that's a word that we must avoid or eliminate as much as possible. We must do all that we can to maximize crash avoidance.

There are a plenitude of videos on YouTube documenting birds attacking and bringing down drones. When presented with an encounter that would "probably" turn out OK, we must not continue on, but instead endeavor to eliminate that probability by taking an appropriate action. A disabled drone "probably" would not hurt anyone as it fell, or "probably" not cause any damage to property. The responsibility and consequences would still be ours though. The mindset then, should be to take whatever actions necessary to minimize the encounter, and from what I've learned, ascending quickly seems to be that proper response.

In flight training, we are told to always fly OVER a flock of birds, since the natural instinct for a bird is to dive for the ground and seek safety. Ascending seems to make sense, and dovetails with the training that I received so many years ago.

I've flown as a pilot now for over fifty years, and the bird encounters that I've had, although different in nature, have not been pleasant. Usually I have little time to react when a bird is spotted in the air, and it's always at the most inconvenient of times (-Just after take-off, or on short final). They can generate an amazing amount of damage!

So with a drone encounter, I'm going to avoid those %$*&^s and steer clear. In the real world, I won't have time to determine if the object is a bird or bug, or what it's made of. At that point in time, my focus will be on avoidance, as it should be. As pilots, we should have a predetermined set of reactions for certain situations. Things "mobbing" at close range, for me, will fall into that category.

-Of course I must then suffer the consequences of being scared by a bug! I've actually done that before. I had a blemish on my canopy in S.E. Asia, and I called "Bogey" two times (-true story (-sigh)). -But here I am, talking about it!
 
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FlyGuy8675309

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A human observer, child or not, will see much more than small camera. This is why maintaining VLOS is so important for situational awareness. I doubt even a child would mistake a dragonfly for a bird, especially at the altitude and distance your Mavic was from the shore.

Yes the camera may have captured a dragonfly, but taking everything into account, it's most likely the dragonflies were evading a bird that was preying on it.

Bottom line: No one but the OP and his spotters were there. If eyewitness said birds were near the drone, that trumps conjecture. The camera only picks up a small part of the entire picture.
 

Nosebump

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Actually, I was impressed with the logic that Isadoc used, and to the point that I will return to the location to look for dragonflies. My curiosity demands satisfaction!

Your point about visual line of sight is a valid one, and while I could vaguely see the drone's lights, it was far enough away that it blended in quite nicely with the shoreline. Birds or dragonflies were quite invisible, so even VLOS was not adequate. My use of grandchildren on the walking path to call my turn were quite necessary.

Was I "legal"? Yes. Could I have performed that flight in a safer manner? Again, yes.
 

Flynz

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I have had many occasions where flights of pigeons have taken an interest in my Mavic Pro. There are a few flashes in my videos as the pass by. The seem to be interested and just wing past me in formation.

However I have also had sea gulls take an interest. A whole different game. They act far more aggressively and I am told can attack. The drone may not be seriously damaged. I wonder if it could lose stability and crash? Maybe a chip out of a prop could also cause a loss in stability.

An instructor told me that he puts the drone in sports mode and flies vertically very quickly. He says this startles the gulls as they are not familiar with vertical flight and they leave it alone. I tried this but the AP told me I could not change mode while flying.

I have got used to the pigeons, just, but avoid the larger and more aggressive gulls.

ps The dragon fly analysis was not helpful, even if correct. The spotters saw birds...
 

Nosebump

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As with conventional flying, one usually doesn't have the time to think or ponder. Whether the object is a pigeon, dragonfly, or hawk is unimportant, because the pilot doesn't have the time to think things out. Instead, an appropriate reaction should be learned and followed. As a side note, I went back to the scene and saw a group of mocking birds (-with white markings on their wings) nesting in the trees.

I agree that the proper course of action is an immediate ascent, and that will be my immediate course of action. BTW, there's a setting in the GO4 app that will allow you to change to sport mode while flying. If I remember correctly, The "P" should be selected.
 
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