University of South Florida computer science students have built and tested an intelligent scarecrow that guards fish farm ponds from predator birds.

The Erebus Scarecrow was designed to protect both the investment of aqua-farmers and the lives of birds that may prey upon their fish.

Unlike the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, the Erebus scarecrow doesn’t have a straw-filled head, but, rather, a head full of sophisticated, but low-cost sensors, cameras and other hi-tech computer components.

The smart scarecrow detects motion, then uses its cameras and image processing software to discriminate between intruders and non-intruders employing programmed color recognition.

Erebus is armed with a speaker system that blasts 120 decibels of gunshot sound and hits predator birds with high speed, but harmless, streams of water. Fish farmers can wear an orange vest to identify themselves as friendlies.

The system was successfully tested at a Tampa Bay-area fish farm, but the students who participated in the project also suggest such a system could be used to protect orchards and vineyards from deer, black bears and other animals.