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Bambi Bombers

Farmers may have to ditch a project using military-style heat-seeking drones to save thousands of fawns from being mowed down by combine harvesters - because it's too dear.

The 2,000 GBP-a-time drones - which find young deer nesting in long grass by using thermal imaging - have already been seen flying over Swiss farms.

Scientists from Zurich's technical college ETH have fixed the cameras to drone aircraft that farmers can operate by remote control.

The technology is almost identical to the gadgets used by American military technicians to deliver precision bomb strikes in Afghanistan.

"The project has already found and saved its first fawns but it is very expensive to fly and maintain so we're going to have to bring the cost down so every farmer can afford it," said one of the research team.

Even a basic miniatursed infra-red camera can cost more than 2,000 GBP before adding the cost of a spy plane and service equipment.

"Eventually this will be as much a part of farm equipment as a tractor and it will be able to show farmers how their crops are doing or where their animals are," added the project team.

Wildlife experts estimate that more than 100,000 fawns die each year when farmers across Germany and Switzerland harvest their hay crop.

"The young fawns bed down in the grass for camouflage protection and can't be seen by people driving the combine harvesters. It's a gruesome way to go," said one.

Germany's agriculture minister Ilse Aigner - in charge of a similar project - explained: "With huge fields and huge combines the normal senses aren't good enough and we are developing the technology to compensate for that."

German Herald

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