Surveying drones used by Gold Fields Australia – One of the worlds largest gold mining companies – have become the unlikely prey of the native Australian wedge-tailed eagle, These drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are used to survey mines in St Ives Western Australia and cost upwards of $20,000 each. ‘Gold Fields Australia’ claims that 10 drones (Trimble UX5 systems) have been destroyed since they initiated the drone surveying program at the st ives mine, One crashed as a result of human error, while nine have been taken down by wedge-tailed eagles, which are known to hunt down prey as big as kangaroos.
Video below (filmed in rural Victoria) shows wedge-tailed eagles targeting drones (UAVs)
Drone surveying tools being destroyed by eagles has reportedly cost the South African company more than $100,000 so far. Rick Steven, a head mine surveyor for Gold Fields Australia, said nine of his Trimble UX5 drones had been lost to the native bird, which he has labelled a natural enemy of the drone. “Eagles are extremely territorial birds,” Steven told reporters.
“Seeing a UAV in the sky, obviously they consider it a threat and something that’s encroaching on their territory.”
On the advice from a birds of prey rehabilitation centre, Steven’s team were told to camouflage the drone so that it would look like a juvenile eagle. Mr Stevens attempt to camouflage the drones as baby eagles reportedly failed, as the technique only temporarily diverted the eagles. They are the largest bird of prey in Australia and the fifth largest eagle in the world, with a massive wingspan of up to 2.3 meters, whereas the drones are constructed from foam and carbon fibre, and fly at an altitude of only 125 meters, with a wingspan of only about 1 meter. The stats explain why the drones make a very easy target for the birds, which boast very impressive features, like the ability to see infrared and ultra-violet rays. The heroic hunting machine is only going about its nature, but is getting away with some awesome vigilante styled justice in the process.
Gold Fields Australia are claiming loss of income as a result, but are encroaching on the natural habitats of native and protected species of birds in the process. Gold Fields Australia, who’s Australian operations make up 30 per cent of the gold exploration spend in Australia, is noted to have caused many environmental problems which have impacted on the well being of animals in the past, but luckily for the mining company, the eagle will likely not get its day in court. Gold mining is arguably one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining being used in Australia. It creates massive amounts of toxic waste and causes more global mercury pollution than any other source. Gold mining also destroys landscapes, pollutes rivers with sulfuric acid, poisons the soil, and contaminate water supplies permanently. In short, gold mining today relies on practices that are extremely harmful to the environment, so we were honestly happy to hear of this unlikely hero fighting back. Nature 1, Gold Fields Australia 0.