Researchers from the Universities of Groningen and Tuscia and the Royal Netherlands Air Force have developed “RobotFalcon”, a deceptively realistic-looking peregrine falcon drone that can perform flight manoeuvres typical of this species. The vehicle is made of glass-fibre reinforced polypropylene and could be used at airports. An internal motor drives two propellers on the front of each wing. To enable the drone to mimic the flight patterns of a real falcon, the researchers studied the flight characteristics of real birds.
Peregrine falcons extremely effective
Tests in Workum on the Ijsselmeer north of Amsterdam have already been successful, according to the researchers. Birds were scared away. In field tests, the robotic bird scared away entire flocks of birds within five minutes of its arrival. In half of these deterrent flights, it was able to clear the field within 70 seconds.
Even in the long run, the deterrent effect did not diminish. The threatened birds did not get used to the fact that RobotFalcon is a harmless fellow, although he would never have attacked, let alone killed, any of them. The researchers present their “deterrent weapon” in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface, which covers the interface between biological and natural sciences.
Danger for starting machines
Live peregrine falcons are ideally suited to chase birds away from the grounds of airports, which are a danger especially to aircraft taking off. Damage caused by bird strikes is $1.4 billion annually. But birds of prey tend to look for other territories if the eviction was successful because of their presence. Moreover, they can become a danger themselves. That is why airports have so far refrained from using them.