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The Light Load: Raven-on-drone violence nothing to crow about

Unmanned aerial vehicles meet moody songfowl in Smackdown Down Under

After suspending service following a series of terrifying raven attacks, Wing Aviation has resumed drone deliveries near Canberra, Australia, on the theory that the aggressive beasts’ hash is well and truly settled.

Per an ornithologist, the trouble was a couple of helicopter-parenting ravens that were rearing hatchlings nearby. The chicks now apparently having flown north, er, south for the winter — or summer (dang equator!) — the birdman told a news organization by the fun name DroneDJ that the menace has passed.

Color me unconvinced. That happy hypothesis does not square with my understanding of irritable songfowl. Looks to me like Mom and Pop Raven felt the devices threatened their status as the apex poultry of the skies. But I’ll let an eyewitness share his insights on the case of Beak v. Drone. Ben Roberts captured one of the midair assaults on camera.

It was no isolated incident, he somberly explained, and in testament to the fact that angry birds of a feather also flock together, Roberts said the lone initial assailant had begun attacking in formation with a co-conspirator. Still more unsettling, the birds were adapting their methods with each fresh sortie. They had advanced in their anti-drone warfare to the point that they knew how to avoid the mutually assured destruction of a feather-shredding encounter with the drone’s blades while savaging the hapless craft.

The investigative team at People magazine reported thus (bracketed commentary added for dramatic impact):

“Roberts stepped outside [into the perilous Canberran wilds] to get his approaching coffee order [and some lifesaving medical supplies] and [frozen in horror] caught the raven’s [chilling] attack on the delivery drone on camera [which Roberts promptly dropped while diving for cover into the pouch of a good-size kangaroo]. In the clip [recovered days later by a detachment of Australian special forces operatives], the [java-crazed] bird grabs onto the end of the drone with its [razor-wire] feet and starts pecking [in frenzied drone-lust] at the [forlornly death-rattling] device, causing the drone to rock as it drops off Roberts’ order [before narrowly escaping somewhat intact.]”

“We don’t want [the taloned attackers] getting injured,” Roberts [nervously assured] ABC News Australia, [eyes darting from camera to sky]. “[Our new raven overlords bird friends] are an important part of our environment here.”

Do tell.

If you ask me, he sounds just plain scared — I mean, once you include the parenthetical stuff that didn’t actually happen.

Anyway, it’s a Monday midnight dreary and if you can’t tell, I’m pondering weak and weary. So with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe and inspiration from “The Simpsons,” I offer this revised stanza from “The Raven.” Consider it a warning that the Bird Wars have only just begun:

“Leave no black plume as a token of thy avian rage woken! / Leave my unmanned hull unbroken! — quit the sky wherein I soar! / Take thy beak from out my frame, and take thy talons from off my door! / Quoth the raven ‘Nevermore.’”

The Light Load is an occasional look at the world of transportation and logistics through the eyes of an industry greenhorn.

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Steve Barrett

A copy editor for FreightWaves since 2019, Steve Barrett has worked as an editor and/or reporter for The Associated Press as well as newspapers in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Nebraska. He also served as a senior managing editor for a medical marketing company, collaborating with some of the nation's most respected health care organizations and specialists in major markets in New York and Pennsylvania. He earned a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of South Dakota.