Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture; Engineering


Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Sama

Second Advisor

Dr. Joshua Jackson


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly becoming common in animal agriculture. However, research regarding the impact of UAV disturbance on animal wellbeing is lacking or limited. The goal of this study was to investigate the effect of UAV flights on beef cattle by measuring cattle heart and movement rate when introduced to single or multiple UAV flights. A total of 16 -18 crossbred beef heifers were introduced to different flights patterns at between 5 and 9 m above ground level (AGL) at approximately 1 to 2 m/s horizontal velocity for 4 weeks with flights repeated 3 days per week. Results from the study showed that single UAV flights conducted in (i) circular and (ii) grid pattern flights had no significant effect on heifer heart and movement rate. However, multiple (i) circular pattern and (ii) approach style flights increased heifer heart rate when first introduced to UAVs, but repeated flights resulted in habituation. Moreover, heifers first introduced to circular pattern flights were likely to flee but became habituated after repeated flights. However, heifers introduced to approach style flights showed more fleeing behavior even after repeated flights. The findings of this study will provide information for safely using UAVs in cattle health and behavior monitoring.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This work was supported by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under Grant No. 2018-67021-27416 and through the multistate project S1069 (accession No. 1015710).