As a way to help keep birds away from planes at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), a drone that looks and acts like a falcon is taking flight.
Designed by a Dutch company called Clear Flights Solutions (CFS), the “Robird” drone took a test flight for members of the media at EIA on Monday. The drone looks and flies like an actual falcon, making other birds believe their natural enemy is present.
“Birds really can’t distinguish it from a natural predator,” explained the lead pilot with Aerium Analytics, Justin Quesnell. “Part of that is the wings beat at the same frequency as an actual bird. It’s about the same size as a female and it’s about 750 grams, the same weight.”
The flying technology will be used to guide birds away from air traffic at EIA, while discouraging nesting near airside operations and glide paths.
While smaller, individual bird strikes usually are not noticeable, even to pilots, larger flocking birds like geese can damage planes.
The airport already has a wildlife specialist, Jul Wojnowski, steering birds clear of dangerous areas.
“We do primarily some pyrotechnics,” he explained. “Bangers and screamers are the main things. We do lots of trapping and relocation of birds of prey. We do some falconry with a real bird of prey.
The robird will be another weapon in Wojnowski’s arsenal. It is made of 3-D-printed fibreglass and remote-controlled.
“We have throttle for the wings and the wings beat faster and we do all the steering by the tail,” Quesnell said.
The drone will officially hit the air next month for a pilot project that runs through the fall. The robotic falcon is able to chase off birds weighing up to three kilograms.
There are some restrictions with the bird.
“We can’t fly in the rain and we don’t fly at night under the regulations,” Tim Bibby, managing director of AERIUM Analytics, said.
“We’re limited to about 20 km/h winds; the turbulence becomes a problem so we bring it down at that point and wait for a safer time.”
Watch below: In just a few weeks, a robotic bird will be patrolling the skies at the Edmonton International Airport in an attempt to stop birds from colliding with aircraft. Aerium Analytics’ lead pilot Justin Quesnell explains how the robird works.
The drone is being brought in to further strengthen EIA’s Wildlife Management Plan. Calgary-based AERIUM Analytics – working in partnership with CFS – will be in charge of implementing the technology and operating it at EIA.
EIA is the first international airport in the world to use robotic birds to keep real birds away from runways.
Watch below: Starting in July, the Edmonton International Airport will be the first in the world to use drone birds as part of its wildlife management system. Sarah Kraus explains.
-With files from Sarah Kraus.