New technology may help avert bird-plane collisions in future

February 7th, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, Feb 7 (ANI): Technologies being worked upon currently may someday make aircraft more visible to birds, so they have time to dodge oncoming planes, to avoid collisions.

Most of todays anti-bird-strike efforts are ground-based, focusing on making airports less inviting to birds by removing ponds, exterminating the bugs birds eat, firing noise cannons, installing artificial owls, and so on.

But, according to a report in National Geographic News, the next frontier in bird-strike prevention is the sky.

Bird-disturbing radar, pulsing lights, and reflective coatings may someday make aircraft more visible to birds, so they have time to dodge oncoming planes, said Bradley Blackwell, a wildlife biologist and bird-strike expert at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

We have to play within their realm of sensory perception and try to exploit that, Blackwell said.

The most fanciful concept is using radar to alert birds to approaching aircraft.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that birds sitting on a runway will suddenly scatter when an airplanes weather radar is engaged, leading some scientists to consider using radar to actively drive away birds.

Though he doubts tales of weather radar, which has a weak signal, dispersing birds, physicist James Genova of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., suggests that a more powerful radar signal specifically tuned to bother birds might someday do the job.

Research on mammals had shown that heat from the microwave radiation used by radar makes a part of the inner ear expand, causing a clicking sound. In birds, this is enough to send them scurrying, Genova said.

Blackwell, the USDA biologist, said Genovas results, combined with continued anecdotal evidence, make the idea strong enough to pursue, though no one is known to be doing so.

According to Richard Dolbeer, a bird-strike expert in Huron, Ohio, as bird populations continue to rebound from historic lows in the 1960s and 1970s and air travel continues to rise, the rate of midair bird strikes could significantly increase.

We are going to have more birds in the sky, and we”re going to have more airplanes in the sky. So, we really need to get busy to figure out how to keep them apart, he said. (ANI)

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