Would An Augmented Pigeon Be A Drone?

The other day I had this strange thought while doing the cat boxes. I find that my mind wanders off into the most interesting places when I’m doing something I’d rather not pay much attention to. Like harvesting the waste products of tame carnivores … but I digress.

The current laws regarding flying Drones in my country, Canada, are fairly restrictive. Some simple legal requirements are show stoppers for certain categories of business ideas.

  • The operator must have line of sight to the drone. They must literally be able to see it. So no flying it out of sight.
  • The drone is going to NOT be autonomous. IT must be remotely piloted.
  • The drone must NOT fly over populated areas without a flight plan being okayed first.

Ok … try this on for size.

Pigeons are possibly man’s oldest companion animal. I’ve heard convincing arguments for this. They are Rock Doves and what does Man do where ever Man spreads? Man makes new Cliff faces, buildings, which Pigeons find pleasing.

And Man has a long standing relationship with them. (aside from eating the Passenger Pigeon out of existence) There’s the Homing Pigeon. We’ve been using Homing Pigeons for 3,000 years …

There is some thinking that they have some way to detect the Earth’s magnetic field and utilize that information to help them guide their path back to ‘home’. Cool. Remember that – magnetic sensitivity.

Then there’s their appearance as trainable subjects in psychology studies. We know a lot about them and we know they can be trained … keep that in mind.

The other day I saw a video that was taken by a camera system strapped to the back of an Eagle. The Eagle then was released from the top of the tallest building in the world.

The instrumentation package weighed in something just right for the large bird.

The trainer was standing down on the ground giving arm signals to the bird.

Okay … with all that preceding info in mind this is what popped up:

Imagine a small enough rig that has GPS, Imaging and Control instrumentation and could fit onto a Pigeon. A small skull cap with an array of controllable magnetic field sections to relay a ‘sense-able stimulation’ to the bird. The signals for that come from an on-board computer that is trying to get the bird to follow a per-arranged flight plan, using GPS info to match against and sending ‘steering signals’ to get the bird to ‘correct’ its flight. All the while images are being captured.

So if you could build such a thing, train the birds, set them loose and run surveillance pathswould you then be operating ‘drones’?

It might sound like Science Fiction but … we live in a world where Game consoles use 3D mapping visual sensors. Soon your Cell phones will use the same technology. So Pigeons could be ‘scanned’ and cap designs could be easily modified in software to custom fit and then printed in 3D printers.

The inevitable march of technology tells us that the instrumentation will eventually be that compact and powerful. It only has to run for a few minutes at a time … maybe the power could be recovered from the pigeon’s flapping? Oh well, it would not need to run for long in many applications.

Unlike man-made drones the basic Pigeon Platform comes with autonomous flight operations built in and fine tuned over millions of years of field testing.

And you wouldn’t actually be hurting the birds. IF they can sense magnetic fields you would not even have to drill into their heads …

Crazy or what?

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