The RobotFalcon That Was Designed To Make Flights Safer
There’s always a slight chance of an accident when riding any form of transportation. In fact, this was shown in the movie Miracle on the Hudson. There was a scene where Captain “Sully” Sullenberger’s jet flew into a flock of geese. As soon as this happened, he lost both engines right after he took off in the New York City airport.
The move was based on a real-life incident that happened 13 years ago. This created a fear for many people, but now researchers have found a way to solve this issue. They had designed the perfect method to get flocks of birds to disperse so that they don’t accidentally break plane engines. They made use of a cleverly-disguised drone that’s meant to look like a bird.
Aside from the many safety factors already in question, collisions between birds and airplanes are not just dangerous, but expensive as well. These cost the aviation industry more than a billion dollars each year, and the expenses come from damaged aircrafts, delays, and flight cancellation all over the world.
A team had partnered up with the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. They wanted to address the problem and developed an artificial raptor. The design took inspiration from the fastest bird on earth – the peregrine falcon.
The artificial bird is made from fiberglass and polypropylene, and reinforced with carbon fiber. This is a fake predator that can be controlled from the ground as it transmits live pictures of its flight to the people on the screen.
They already tested this out on the Netherlands fields and they saw how all flocks were successfully deterred with what they now call the RobotFalcon. This took place within five minutes after it was launched, and around half of them were able to clear out fields ridden with birds within a mere 70 seconds.
The fake falcon was said to also be very realistic, so much so that the birds maintained a safe distance even after three months.
“We developed the RobotFalcon and tested its effectiveness to deter flocks of corvids, gulls, starlings and lapwings,” the group said in a study published in The Royal Society Interface journal.
“In this field study, we tested the effectiveness of the RobotFalcon to drive away bird flocks by measuring the proportion of flocks it drove away, how fast fields were cleared from flocks, how long it took for them to return, and whether habituation occurred,” the paper stated.
The test flights were flown in an agricultural environment found around the Dutch city of Workum.
“The behavior of the bird flocks was studied upon exposure to the RobotFalcon, to a normal drone, and in control trials without any disturbance. We further compared the effectiveness of the RobotFalcon with the conventional methods in current use at a military airport such as distress calls and pyrotechnics.”
“The RobotFalcon scared away bird flocks from fields immediately, and these fields subsequently remained free of bird flocks for hours. It outperformed the drone and the best conventional method at the airbase—distress calls. Most importantly, there was no evidence that bird flocks became accustomed to the RobotFalcon over the course of their fieldwork,” the researchers also said.
The group behind it called the RobotFalcon “a practical and ethical solution to drive away bird flocks with all advantages of live predators but without their limitations.”
This new method can address the problem efficiently, but it also has its limitations. The flights cannot be launched during extreme wind conditions. The artificial raptor was also not effective when it came to scaring off larger birds such as geese or herons. In order to address this problem, the team also has plans of creating a larger robot that resembles bigger birds such as eagles. This may serve that very purpose.
However, they also haven’t released a statement on scaling up manufacturing of these peregrine. It may take some time, but this invention is the right step towards aviation safety that everyone can benefit from.
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