The bond between shepherds and their loyal sheepdogs is a rural image that dates back since man first herded livestock.
But now the face of shepherding may soon change forever with the introduction of a battery-powered airborne robot to track and round up flocks.
The drone, developed by Frenchman Marc-Alexandre Favier, costs a few hundred pounds and could eventually be controlled by Smartphone.
Favier, 27, a postgraduate student at Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, told the Sunday Times: ‘It’s amazing that the technology is becoming so developed that this sort of thing is possible.’
The son of a farmer, he has designed a prototype Unmanned Air System (UAS) to be used as an eye in the sky to manage and monitor livestock on very large and remote estates.
He used an AR Drone 2 with a camera attached to the bottom to allow the user to get a bird’s eye view and came up with a computer program which instructs the drone to locate, recognize and track livestock.
Although the drone can be controlled via Wi-Fi on a computer, the aim is for farmers to be able to control it using an iPhone or Smartphone.
Favier said: ‘The number of robots for professional use is increasing significantly so it is very important to be up-to-date with robotics – it’s the future and the present.’
He said his prototype was designed with Scottish sheep farmers in mind, many of whom spend large amounts of time and cover many miles monitoring their livestock.
In America, the U.S. Department of Defense in charge of military technology, has developed a robot dog that can run faster than Usain Bolt, follow its leader, and respond to commands
The LS3, or ‘Alphadog’ as it has been nicknamed, is so lifelike, that it can catch itself slipping on ice , easily navigates streams and ditches and can carrying 400 pounds.
Other drones include hand grenade-sized robots that can be thrown into Afghanistan rebel compounds.
Farmer Clarissa Dickson Wright was unimpressed by the technological breakthrough. ‘There is no substitute for a dog and a shepherd,’ she said.