Watch this drone shepherd round up its flock on an Irish farm

Two Irish brothers show a novel way to get the sheep on their family farm to go where they want. Maybe drones will be putting collies out of work.

Michael Franco
Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
2 min read

Although CNET predicts that farming will be the No. 1 industry transformed by drones in the coming years, I think that's talking about evaluating crop health and the like, not finding border collie replacements.

But a new video shows that "drone shepherding" is certainly possible.

Using a Yuneec Q500 drone, Declan Brennan was able to move his flock around his farm in Carlow, Ireland. His brother Paul, who runs the site Skyfly Photography on Facebook, outfitted the drone with a video camera to catch the action. They nicknamed the device (and named the accompanying video) "Shep the Drone -- World's First Drone Sheepdog" and the video shows it zipping around Herondale, the farm on which the brothers were raised.

"Although he doesn't do this every day, he has done it before quite easily (weather-dependent) and it is a very feasible idea," Paul told me when I asked whether sheep herding by drone was just for fun, or something that would actually be practical to implement.

"Ask any sheep farmer about trying to drive sheep from one field to another and he will tell you it's a difficult job. So in this case Declan did a great job."

I can just hear the conversation years from now. The old biologically enhanced farmer sitting in a xenon-powered rocking chair on the front porch telling his granddaughter: "Yup, we used to use these things called dogs at one time to round up the sheep. Now that we got these drones though, the dogs haven't worked these fields in centuries."