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May 13, 2017

Check out the lifelike robotic falcon scaring birds off an airport runway

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Birds flying or nesting near airport runways can be extremely dangerous, but this fleet of robotic falcons could keep them at bay.

If you think that baggage-checking X-ray machines are as exciting as airport technology gets, prepare to have your mind blown!

At Canada’s Edmonton International Airport, the powers-that-be have launched a new program involving a fleet of robotic birds of prey (yes, really!), tasked with stopping real birds from dangerously flying or nesting near flight paths. It claims to be the first airport in the world to embrace such technology.

Called Robirds, the drones mimic the flight of falcons in a way that is lifelike enough to trick smaller birds into thinking their natural predator is in the area.

“The Robirds are robotic birds of prey that fly just like a real bird, through flapping wing motion,” Wessel Straatman, an R&D engineer at Clear Flight Solutions, the company which built the robo-falcons, told Digital Trends. “By mimicking their natural counterparts through silhouette and behavior, they are indistinguishable from real-life birds of prey to other birds. Birds instinctively react to the presence of birds of prey, making it less attractive for them to come to that area.”

Realizing the potential perils that birds can cause to planes (and vice versa), airports have long tried to scare them off in a variety of ways. Methods including kites or bird-scaring acoustics can work, but tend to be short-term solutions, as over time the birds see through the tactics. But according to Straatman, no such thing is likely to happen with the Robirds.

“Birds will never habituate to the presence of a bird of prey in an area, and since the birds cannot distinguish between real-life birds of prey and our Robirds, habituation does not occur with the Robirds,” he said. “This makes sure that we can focus on the long term, and truly offer bird control.”

It’s a clever solution both conceptually and, as the video at the top of this page makes clear, technologically, too. Provided it works as well as hoped, let’s keep our fingers crossed that similar tech rolls out around the world.

Suddenly the prospect of being stuck at the airport because of a delayed flight doesn’t seem so bad!




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