Canada's Edmonton International Airport handles about 8 million passengers and 168,000 flights annually, so it's vitally important that birds aren't smacking into flying aircraft or getting sucked into their engines. Currently, the airport uses lasers and recordings of predator bird calls to deter them. Starting in June, however, a robotic falcon known as Robird will also enter service. It will mark the first time that an airport is using the technology on a daily basis.
Robird was first developed at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and is now being produced commercially by spinoff company Clear Flight Solutions. Along with "a full suite" of other drones which will be used for purposes such as mapping, it's being provided to the airport by Calgary-based Aerium Analytics.
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The robot flies by flapping its wings in a manner similar to that by which a real falcon flies. It has a maximum air speed of 80 km/h (50 mph), and is reportedly so realistic that other birds are fooled into believing that one of their key predators is in the area.
Remotely piloted by a ground-based operator (assisted by a spotter), it will be used to scare birds away from incoming and outgoing air traffic, and to keep them from nesting nearby.
"We currently operate our Robirds in a variety of places, but taking the step towards full integration within daily operations at an airport is huge," says Nico Nijenhuis, CEO of Clear Flight Solutions. "To now officially start integrating our operations at a major Canadian airport is absolutely fantastic."
Robird can be seen in action, in the video below.