Drone vs seagull! ‘Egg oiling’ UAV to target aggressive birds

© Alex Morton
Drones could be used to combat aggressive seagulls that are reportedly plaguing the UK’s seaside towns, stealing food and even killing pets.

The new ‘anti-seagull’ domestic drones are being considered as one potential solution to the vicious attacks. 

The drones will not be deployed to injure gulls. Rather, they will spread chemicals into the birds’ nests to stop oxygen reaching eggs, preventing chicks from hatching.

The technique, which has been tested on French gull nests, is similar to the UK practice of “egg oiling.” But rather than humans spreading the paraffin oil, a drone dispatches the chemical.

Experts say that drone oiling is cheaper than manual egg oiling, and removes the danger of people climbing into inhospitable areas and often being attacked by gulls.

Tony Whitehead from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said using paraffin oil to kill eggs was a “tried and tested technique.

“There are issues with accessing and finding nests, so in theory the use of drones could solve that problem.

“However, while these techniques may well work in terms of applying oil to eggs, egg oiling (or any other method of culling) has little chance of reducing the population even if reducing the population in urban areas was acceptable – which in my view it is not,” he added.

The new drone was designed by experts to both seek out and spray nests. It is protected by a buffer, which stops gulls from attacking it or being sliced by its sharp blades.

It has been tested in the town of Trouville-sur-Mer in northern France, which has seen a spate of aggressive seagull attacks.

Deputy Mayor Pascale Cordier said the gulls were becoming so dangerous it is only a matter of time before “they make off with a baby.”

Councillor Graham Roberts from Cumbria supported the idea, and has agreed to look into the possibility of using drones to tackle the effects of the seagulls.

“It’s an excellent idea and as long as it’s legal, I will look at it,” he said.

“I intend to raise it at the next town council meeting and would be keen to speak to the French authorities to see how it is done,” he added.

A spokesperson from Natural England said that egg oiling could be carried out, provided local authorities and landowners follow strict procedures.

She said the group advises manual oiling to ensure that the eggs are fully coated.