Beef 2024 Report

Beef 2024 crowds see full potential of drone mustering

Eric Barker, 20/05/2024

Cattle being mustered down a laneway using a drone operated by someone in a completely separate location. Photo: Mike Terry

THE idea of carrying out important farm jobs from a holiday resort on the coast was dangled in front of the beef industry this month, with a “world first” remote drone muster demonstrated to crowds at Rockhampton’s Beef 2024.

SkyKelpie founder and north-west Queensland producer Luke Chaplain hosted what he believed was a world first – where a drone operator was in one location mustering cattle in a completely separate location. He connected the two using Starlink satellite technology.

Standing up on stage at Beef, Mr Chaplain dialled in drone operator Jarrod Donahay who was set up in a drone handling facility on the Gold Coast – which was approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

He then shared the screen with the crowd as he pushed some cattle down a lane way using the drone.

Mr Chaplain said he was keen to show the potential of drone technology.

“We wanted to bring some wow factor technology to Beef Week. I was a bit nervous with it being the first time we’ve tried it, but it went great,” he said.

Luke Chaplain presenting at Beef 2024. Photo: Mike Terry

Mr Chaplain named a series of examples where remote drone operation could help producers – allowing them to move cattle between paddocks while they are away on holidays, check boundary fences without driving and monitor livestock agistment.

But regulations are not quite there yet, with the remote drone operation needing to take place from CASA approved facilities and gaining license for remote drones being a big task. Mr Chaplain has been working with the regulator to tailor some of the drone regulations towards agriculture.

“Hopefully I will be operating the drone from the stage next Beef Week,” he joked during his presentation.

Demonstrating the value of drones

Mr Chaplain has spent the last two years trying to demonstrate the potential of using drones on farms – especially for mustering.

He was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 2022, where travelled to several countries across the world looking at other examples of drone mustering and the latest technology. He also completed a study with Meat & Livestock Australia and the Qld Department of Agriculture which found numerous benefits of drones.

“We now have more than 100,000 head of cattle being mustered with drones purchased from SkyKelpie,” he told the crowd.

Mr Chaplain said drones were effective when combined with stock handline expertise.

“We get a lot of people asking about whether the animals get used to drones and stop reacting to them. That’s why we have focused a lot of research using people who have stock handling skills,” he said.

“When we talk about drones and mustering, they are just another form of pressure – like a helicopter or a motorbike.”

















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