Bird strike incidents cause millions of dollars in damage to planes annually, and trained birds of prey have been used to deter bird flocks around airports for a long time. As a cheaper and more manageable alternative, a company has developed the Robird — a drone that mimics the flight of a real raptor.
Clear Flight Solutions promotes their Robird as a means to protect agriculture from bird damage, to disperse nuisance bird flocks in areas such as landfills, and most importantly, to keep birds away from airports. The company says their remote-controlled drone birds are cheaper to manage, and more effective because they're under the full control of a pilot throughout their flight.
Bird ingestion on a F-16 engine (Micah Maziar on Flickr / CC Commercial Use)
A 2013 FAA report on bird strikes says the number of reported bird strikes has skyrocketed, from 1,851 incidents in 1990, to 11,315 in 2013. While the latter number seems high, the ratio of damaging bird strikes to aircraft movements is only 0.98/100,000. 71 percent of bird strikes occur at or below 500 feet about ground level, during the takeoff, climb, or final approach phases of the flight. 66 percent of bird strikes occur during daylight hours.
Robird drone - photo by Clear Flight Solutions
In addition to live birds, airports have used a host of other methods, including pyrotechnics, gunshots, dogs, scarecrows, and trapping & relocating. In 2009, The New York Times reported that Denver International Airport had the most reported bird strikes in the decade, numbering 2,090. Dallas/Ft Worth and Memphis rounded out the top three.
Top image: US Department of Agriculture on Flickr