By Luca Wislsperger
By Luca Wislsperger
According to Article 20a of the Basic Law the farmer or the actual machine operator has a duty to ensure that animals are not killed or endangered during mowing. A breach of this obligation will be punished in § 17 of the Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) with a prison sentence of up to 3 months or a fine.
Through those laws farmers are obliged to search the meadow for animals before mowing so that no game is injured or even killed. Moreover, searching animals in high grass only with the human eye is almost impossible, extremely time-consuming and ineffective. To prevent deer accidents FairFleet offers a wildlife rescue package with drones.
For this purpose our drone pilots use special thermal imaging cameras which detect the temperature difference between the animals and the ground. With the constant development of technology both the resolution of the camera and the screen of the drone is getting better and better. Thanks to the development pilots can recognize minimal temperature differences on the screen through nuances of the colours.
In order to save as much animals as possible with our technology FairFleet is part of a cooperation with the animal protection association of Rottach-Egern, Bavaria, Germany. They sponsor the animal rescue with drones for one season. This is intended to make mowing easier for local farmers through our wildlife rescue and to reduce scepticism about drone technology. In order to achieve an effective and safe fawn rescue with a drone keep the following 5 phases in mind:
1. Detection of the meadow by the drone pilot:
In order to carry out the drone flight in the most effective and time saving way the meadow must be captured by the drone pilot first of all. For gathering all the important information a local person is helpful. Ideally is a hunter who is well informed about the current game population and thus knows the hiding places of the animals. If there is no hunter available on the day of the fawn rescue a farmer is also an advantage as he also knows the whereabouts of the young animals.
This step facilitates the next phase of the fawn rescue because the pilot has some previous knowledge of the meadow. This ensures that the pilot does not have to carry out a time-consuming search with the drone just a little above the ground. Given that the drone's battery has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes it is important to avoid additional rounds during the search otherwise the battery needs to be replaced.
2. Flight and search:
The most successful time for drone flights with thermal imaging cameras is early in the morning between 5 and 6 a.m. Currently, the floor is very cold so the temperature difference between the floor and the fawn is as large as possible.
The pilot flies with the drone about 50 meters above the field. This requires thermal imaging cameras with a high zoom factor so suspicious and unidentifiable areas can be zoomed in. This ensures that no fawn is overlooked.
Markus Stigler - one of the FairFleet drone pilots - uses for example the 30x zoom of the DJI Martice 210 to rescue fawns. In case he can’t identify the difference between a molehill or a fawn from the regular height of 50 meters, he simply zooms in. That makes the search much faster because the normal flight altitude does not have to be left for uncertain reasons.
In general, the sinking of the drone and the ascent to the original altitude is associated with an increased energy requirement, which leads to a shorter flight time.
Thermal image of the drone: The heat emissions of the fawn are easy to recognize
3. Finding the recognized fawn:
As soon as the pilot has identified a fawn with the thermal imaging camera, it must be made visible for the following mowing process. The pups are not bigger than a hare which makes it extremely difficult to find them in the tall grass from the ground. Therefore, it is much easier to send assistants to the meadow by radio equipment.
4. Rescuing the fawn:
Laundry baskets are an unusual but effective method of successfully protecting the found and young animals from the farmer's mower.
Laundry baskets are placed over the found animals and a flag is placed in the field to mark them. The fawn gets air through the holes in the laundry basket and can’t run away. It is important not to touch the animal. This ensures that it does not take on human smell and it is not rejected by the mother animal after the rescue operation. In addition, the fawn can’t run back to the field where it is injured or even killed when mowing the meadow.
The only disadvantage of the method is that the meadow can’t be completely mowed. However, if this is a problem for the farmer the fawn must be carried out of the field but this increases the likelihood of being abandoned by the mother. In addition, it can’t be guaranteed that the young animals will seek shelter in the tall grass again.
5. Freeing the fawn after mowing
As soon as the mowing process is done, the fawns must be freed again in the last phase. If only a laundry basket has been put over the animal and a flag has been put into the field, it only must be removed. If the young animals have been carried away from the meadow, they must also be released.
We hope to save many more animal lives through the mentioned 5 phases of the fawn rescue. In addition, farmers are spared imprisonment or fines, as well as high costs for cleaning or possibly repairing the mower.