THIS will get them in a flap: Robotic falcon ‘Robird’ set to patrol airports in a bid to prevent bird strikes

THIS will get them in a flap: Robotic falcon ‘Robird’ set to patrol airports in a bid to prevent bird strikes

Apr 15, 2016 News by Gary Searing
  • 'Robird' will take to the skies above Dusseldorf Weeze airport in Germany
  • There are two designs, a falcon for small birds and an eagle for larger ones 
  • Dutch-designed robot uses flapping motion and is controlled by a pilot

Bird strikes represent one of the most acute dangers to aircraft, but one European airport believes it has a solution – a robotic falcon.

‘Robird’ – which is propelled by flapping wings – will take to the skies above Dusseldorf Weeze airport in Germany to help protect aircraft as they take off and land.

The Dutch designers say that there are two species of Robird, a falcon, which can be used to chase off birds up to three kilograms and an eagle, which can see off any type of bird.

Flocks in the vicinity will be scared off by ‘the combination of silhouette and wing movement’.

In essence, the manufacturers say, the birds really do believe that one of their natural enemies is eyeing them up, as the Robirds have ‘the realistic appearance and weight’ of a real falcon and eagle.

Birds have been known to grow accustomed to scare tactics at airports – time will tell if they adapt to Robird.

Bird strikes can bring down aircraft so millions are invested at airports around the world in an effort to keep them at a safe distance from runways.

'Strikes are occasionally dangerous,' author and pilot Patrick Smith wrote in Cockpit Confidential.

'This is especially true when engines are involved, as we saw in 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 glided into the Hudson River after colliding with a flock of Canada geese.'

In this incident Captain Sullenberger courageously landed an A320 in the Hudson River after the plane lost thrust in both engines following the bird strike, which occurred moments after take-off.

'Modern turbofans are resilient, but they don't take kindly to the ingestion of foreign objects, particularly those slamming into their rotating blades at high speeds,' said Smith.

'Birds don't clog an engine but can bend or fracture the internal blades, causing power loss.'

Robird has been designed by Dutch researchers at the University of Twente, who then set up the company Clear Flight Solutions.

In a release from the university, Nico Nijenhuis, master's student at the University of Twente and the CEO of Clear Flight Solutions said: 'Finally, this is a historic step for the Robird and our company.

‘We already fly our Robirds and drones at many locations, and doing this at an airport for the first time is really significant.

'Schiphol Airport has been interested for many years now, but Dutch law makes it difficult to test there. The situation is easier in Germany, which is why we are going to Weeze.’

Clear Flight Solutions is benefiting from more relaxed rules at Weeze, as well as the relatively limited amount of air traffic there.

The airport handles around 2.5million passengers annually, most of whom come from the Netherlands, where Schiphol Airport handles 55million passengers annually.

Clear Flight Solutions was recently the beneficiary of an investment of €1.6million from Cottonwood Euro Technology Fund.

Clear Flight Solutions said this investment has enabled it to become a global leader in the field of bird management.

‘We have grown tremendously and we now employ 15 people’, said Nijenhuis.

‘We have also become much more multidisciplinary. We even have a retired 747 captain on our team now, especially to help us with the airport projects. He knows the rules, so his input is very valuable.’

By John Hutchinson and Ted Thornhill for MailOnline
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