Could this falcon robot be the solution to prevent bird strikes?

Editor’s note – Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news about fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.

(CNN) — Airplanes and birds have shared the skies since the first flight in 1903.

However, to say that this has led to some problems, especially over the past few decades, is an understatement.

Collisions between birds and aircraft are the cause of thousands of bird deaths each year.

Such incidents, known as bird strikes, can also result in damage to aircraft, as well as flight delays and cancellations, costing the International Civil Aviation Organization $1.4 billion a year. year.

Airport wildlife management teams currently use a number of deterrents, such as drones and birds of prey, including hawks, in an attempt to scare away birds from around the airport. However, breeding and training falcons isn’t exactly cheap, and the birds can be difficult to manage.

But could a robotic peregrine falcon developed by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands be the solution?

Very effective

RobotFalcon was developed to help prevent bird strikes.

Mr. Papadopoulou

Made from fiberglass and expanded polypropylene (EPP), the RobotFalcon, which has a wingspan of 70 centimeters, mimics the movements of the large and powerful falcon, and was found to be very effective at keeping birds away in a recent study. published.

Controlled from the ground, the bird has a propeller on each wing and a camera mounted on its head to allow « first person view while steering ».

In a series of tests carried out in 2019 in the area surrounding the city of Workum in the Netherlands, the RobotFalcon managed to deter all herds from fields within five minutes of starting its flight, with 50% of sites cleared in 70 seconds, according to Rolf Storms, one of the report’s authors.

Compared to a drone, the RobotFalcon, which weighs 0.245 kilograms (about 0.5 lbs), was found to be the superior of the two, with the drone only managing to kill 80% of the birds in the same amount of time. .

“There is a need for new methods to deter birds,” reads the report published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. “And we show that the RobotFalcon can make a major contribution to filling this niche.

« He cleared the fields of corvids, gulls, starlings and lapwings successfully and quickly, with the deterred flocks staying away for hours.

« The RobotFalcon was more effective than a drone: its success was higher and it deterred herds faster. »

As for comparisons with an actual bird of prey, the authors noted that the RobotFalcon was a « practical and ethical solution » with the « benefits of live predators but without their limitations ».

However, the report goes on to acknowledge that there are also limitations with the RobotFalcon, pointing out that it must be operated by trained pilots, while flights cannot take place in rain or strong winds and are also limited by its 15 minutes. battery life.

Effective deterrence

The RobotFalcon, which has a wingspan of 70 centimeters, mimics the movements of a real falcon.

The RobotFalcon, which has a wingspan of 70 centimeters, mimics the movements of a real falcon.

RF thunderstorms

He also notes that the bird was not as effective at deterring large birds, such as geese or herons, and that a larger bird-like robot like an eagle may need to be developed. to this end.

“During the fieldwork, the reaction of the birds (measured by the distance at which they started their flight, the flight initiation distance) did not change,” Storms told CNN Travel.

« This can either indicate a lack of bird habituation or be caused by the fact that we are deterring new naive birds every day due to the turnover of the bird population. Either way, it shows that the method remains effective over long periods of time.

Storms then suggested that airports and airbases should consider using the RobotFalcon alongside existing deterrent methods « to the greatest effect ».

This is not the first time that a robotic falcon has been designed to ward off birds from the airport environment.

In 2017, Edmonton International Airport in Canada became the first airport in the world to integrate a full suite of unmanned aerial system services into its daily airport operations when it tested the CFS Robird, designed by the Dutch company Clear Flight Solutions.

News of this latest study comes after a bird strike caused a United Airlines flight bound for Miami International Airport to return to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport shortly after takeoff at the start. of the month.

In a statement released after the Oct. 14 incident, the airline confirmed that the Boeing 737-900 had landed safely and a new aircraft had been assigned to the flight.

The FAA has a wildlife strike database that tracks incidents, which have increased in recent years from about 1,800 in 1990 to 16,000 in 2018, according to the database.

« Expanding wildlife populations, increased aircraft movements, a trend toward faster, quieter aircraft, and awareness in the aviation community have all contributed to the observed increase in aircraft strikes. ‘Wild animals reported’, says the FAA website.

Pilot Chesley B. « Sully » Sullenberger III landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York in 2019 after the plane’s two engines were destroyed by a double bird strike.

Top image credit: RF Storms

CNN’s Howard Slutsken, Marnie Hunter and Sara Smart contributed to this report.

cnn en2fr2en

Back to top button