Clear Flight Solutions
Cape Town - Though bird strikes are a fact of aviation life, many airports try to keep the flying nuisances away from their runways through various means, from dogs to setting off loud bangs.
Although many bird strikes happen without serious damage to the airplane, a big enough bird hitting an engine could cause a major catastrophe.
WATCH: Mango plane's engine damaged in bird strike at OR Tambo
Edmonton International Airport in Alberta, Canada, surrounded by green areas inhabited by birds, took to the problem with a different approach. They enlisted the help of a peregrine falcon to help chase away birds and teach them to avoid the airport altogether.
This is however no ordinary falcon - it's part of a range of Robirds created by Clear Flight Solutions, specifically designed for bird control. These customised drones are propelled by wings and painted to look like a real falcon, but are controlled by a human on the ground.
WATCH: Bird corpse left dangling from plane after strike
Birds tend to get used to other scare tactics used at airports, but this method is a little different. Its controller mimics the movements of a real bird, and triggers birds' survival instincts when they encounter these Robirds, and tends to avoid the airport altogether. Even their offspring will learn to avoid the area without ever coming into contact with the these flying machines.
Edmonton became the first airport in the world to test drive this new system, and according to the New York Times it looks like it's going well. Jordan Cicoria, Robird Operations Manager, noted that the main hesitance to using the technology is airports' aversion to drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, but reiterates that there are many fail-safes in place to prevent the predator from becoming a nuisance.
They have logged over 200 flights with their operational partner AERIUM Analytics in a two-month period at Edmonton.
The Robird also comes in an eagle model for the bigger birds. No birds are harmed by the machine, except maybe for a quick jolt of adrenaline when they see the predator approach.
According to their website, the Robirds can also be used in harbours, farms, windfarms and other facilities that need to keep bird populations away without hurting them.
Want to see the Robird in action? Check out New York Times' video below:
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