Ok so basically it's just an off-the-shelf drone with a big speaker on top making barking noises. The most clever solutions are the simplest ones :)
In my mind the next logical step would be AI that pilots the drones autonomously, managing location of herds of animals to balance various objectives. I'm not much of a rancher, so I don't know what those would be. But if I had to hazard a guess, rotating where the herd grazes, keeping them safe, bringing them into pens during certain periods.
I remember reading years ago that there was some project to autonomously milk cows. The cows were taught to go into a special milking stall when they were ready to be milked. Each cow was RFID'd and even had their own Twitter handle that was posted to each time the cow was milked.
Modern John Deere machinery all but runs itself. Modern combine harvesters are outfitted with GPS and the person "operating it" is basically sitting in there watching the sportsball or whatever.
It's kinda surreal when you step back and look at the trajectory. It's easy to picture, in the not too distant future, farms that are run entirely autonomously, with only light direct intervention performed remotely from C&C centers in a nice comfy air-conditioned office in downtown Manhattan.
I wonder how much longer it would take before some kind of mass human extinction event doesn't even impact the agriculture ecosystem? I'm imaging this bizarre dystopia where the machines rose up, killed all the humans, and then settled down to produce countless tonnes of animal and vegetable produce in peace. Sure, there's none of those pesky humans around to consume it, but the AI wasn't optimized for that purpose - it just wants to produce as much and as efficiently as possible.
Rotating pasture, making sure the cattle does not run away, assembling them for vaccination.
Those are things that people can not do reliably on large scale, but surveillance and guide drones coupled with rfid tags can easily. I guess the largest current bottleneck is drone time on the air and maintenance.
If you got up close you'd find land slips, cracks, fallen trees and sheep shit. A wheeled vehicle would need to be at least the size of a quad bike.
On the transit subject, the lack of car reliance is nice in theory, but I honestly found my short experience of taking MTA subways around less enjoyable than driving. Very crowded, jerked so hard when it started moving that I almost fell over, and the walks between connections can be tiring if there's a rush to get there on time or it's a long distance (or both - running from one side of the PABT to the other isn't fun when you're not in great shape)
Dogs that have a built-in need to herd things, no longer having a job.
They would tear the world apart in months burning off their energy.
Of all the things we could replace man's best friend with (literally born to do this job), does it really have to be Skynet?
Lithium batteries simply need electricity.
Annual costs are around £500-1k
They also require a significant time investment when not working.
Dogs can fly^Wrun without remote control.
I expect that at some point the utility of the robot/drone will outpace the utility of the dog in this role (and others). Wanting to hang on to our dogs isn't a bad thing, but I don't think we will be able to make as many arguments based on their utility. Instead we'll just have to accept the idea that the reasons for having them (and even working with them) will be cultural/emotional instead, which are perfectly good reasons.
We have an Australian Shepherd as a family pet - they're amazing companions!
The bar for sheep herding robots is ridiculously high. Border Collies are super smart.
My first thought when reading this was that sheep dogs, the really good ones, don't typically bark. They are very patient and quiet. Barking is likely to send the sheep in the wrong direction.
I owned a working cattle dog once (when I worked on a farm with cattle) and this dog did bark, too much! She wasn't a very good working dog because she'd spook the cattle with the barking.
Ultimately, I'm not convinced a "barking" drone is really going to be very effective.
(Welsh herdsmen put lights on sheep and play “pong” on a sloped hillside after dusk with the help of border collies.)
Pretty impressive and fun to watch.
Mild example: our collie would frequently herd the sheep into the barn even before we realized the weather was turning.
Extreme example: a Great Pyrenees moved into our farm from a neighboring farm that didn't have any herd animals. The neighbors just gave us the dog after the third time it moved in to our farm.
Livestock guardians do not necessarily have to be dogs. Three llamas living with a herd of sheep will provide a great deal of defense against coyotes and mountain lions.
This is New Zealand.
The only thing that eats mammals here (apart from the local humans) is Austrosimulium (australense or ungulatum).
Just think of the scale of NZ farms vs the DJI range. Unless they can land on remote charging stations dotted about the terrain it's going to run out of power far too quickly to explore much of the farm aside from a brief flyover.
Back of the envelope calc: if an avg NZ farm is 252 hectares , and we charitably assume it's square
and it's about 6.3km for a trip round the perimeter, yet the DJI flies for 31 minutes at 25kph , so roughly 13km, it could only do ~two laps (without stopping and presumably not accounting for cross winds)
It gets worse if the farm isn't square (as seems likely in NZ terrain) and it gets much worse when you considering that livestock farms are bigger still than the overall average.
I think the main advantage with the current limited range would be for driving animals (something that wouldn’t routinely require high speed or long distances but might take a long time) and more localised surveys. I can certainly imagine eg taking the quad bike to different parts of the farm and just sending the drone up to look at/round up the sheep.
You can keep a Spark in the air almost indefinitely (only landing to swap batteries) with three batteries if you don't mind charging them while they're hot (shortens the battery life a bit) so I'd imagine a Mavic Pro would be able to do as well or better.
Especially in a rural setting, I don't think noise levels would be a big concern. That said, I think like many things, if reducing sound levels is important then over time it will be addressed - seems like it would be a good application of active noise dampening.
Animals are quite sensitive to noise.
I love the way the sheep look like schools of fish (especially when they are on fast-mo).
That would make me move, at least!
Needs more shrill screaming and the amplifier needs to be roboticized to run circles around them, of course.