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Southampton deploys robot bird


A new ‘bird’ has been trialled at Southampton Airport.  It looks like a falcon to casual observers but is actually an ornithopter – a drone designed and flown to mimic the actions of a bird of prey, and used to deter real birds – named Robird®.  The device has been tested in partnership with NATS and the developers, Clear Flight Solutions.

Airports employ a wide range of methods to reduce the risk of a bird colliding with an aircraft during landing or take off – known as a bird strike – as it can create a threat to flight safety. Traditional bird scaring methods lose their impact over time and need to be backed up with lethal deterrents.  The benefit of Robird® is that all types of birds including corvids, birds of prey, pigeons and gulls see it as a predator and change their behaviour to keep well away.  No harm comes to any bird through this method of control.

A total of 201 Robird® flights were completed.  It was deemed an effective response in all  species rated a medium or high hazard, and the number of bird strikes decreased substantially while the device was being tested.  The successful trial points to similar systems being acquired by other airports.

Dan Townsend, Southampton Airport’s airside operations and safety manager, said: “At Southampton Airport, we invest every effort to make sure our airfield is as safe as possible.  Robird® is an innovative idea that we’ve found to be an effective and durable way to reduce bird strikes.”

Ian Rogers, UK & Ireland Director, Clear Flight Solutions, said: “Clear Flight Solutions and Southampton Airport worked together to establish a drone operation on a regular and on-going basis in a CTR [airport control area] for the first time in Europe.  The effect of flying Robird® at Southampton has been to remove bird hazards from safety critical areas.”

Gonzalo Velasco, Portfolio Management Director, Ferrovial Airports, said: “We are very happy with the positive results of this project.  It is an innovative solution for a real challenge at airports.  We are currently planning to implement it at one of our airports to make them even safer.”

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