Ruffled Feathers in Sudan

Surveillance drone manufacturers watch out – you’ve got real-bird competition. Or so Sudanese officials believe.

By: /
13 December, 2012
2012_12_Vulture-drones.width-646.jpg

Israel has been accused by the Sudanese authorities of deploying a vulture on a reconnaissance mission in West Sudan. The “vulture” in this case is a live bird – not a new drone prototype. According to a report by CNN, the vulture was tagged with a bracelet saying “Hebrew University Jerusalem”and “Israel Nature Service”, as well as the contact details of an Israeli avian ecologist, but Sudanese officials became concerned by the bird’s GPS-equipped camera. The camera, according to Ohad Hatzofe of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the ecologist named on the bracelet, insists the GPS camera allows for nothing but tracking the bird’s location, and is widely used by those studying migratory species.


Hatzofe also cast doubt on the practicality of using vultures as secret agents: “I’m not an intelligence expert, but what would be learned from putting a camera onto a vulture? You cannot control it. It’s not a drone that you can send where you want. What would be the benefit of watching a vulture eat the insides of a dead camel?


Given Israel’s success in developing deploying drones for surveillance, it seems unlikely that the Mossad would now choose to send a live bird to monitor developments in West Sudan (or anywhere else for that matter). The vulture’s acute eyesight could be an advantage, certainly, but whether this would outweigh a tendency for target transfer – from suspected terrorist to tasty-looking dead camel – is unclear.

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 

Open Canada is published by the Canadian International Council, but that’s only the beginning of what the CIC does. Through its research and live events hosted by its 18 branches across the country, the CIC is dedicated to engaging Canadians from all walks of life in an ongoing conversation about Canada’s place in the world.

By becoming a member, you’ll be joining a community of Canadians who seek to shape Canada’s role in the world, and you’ll help Open Canada continue to publish thoughtful and provocative reporting and analysis.

Join us