Sound & Vision
Every year, 5,000 bird strikes—also called Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH)—occur, resulting in $1.5 billion in damages and repairs for the airline industry.
Many are familiar with the “Miracle on the Hudson,” in which US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese. Since then, bird strikes have been one of the aviation industry’s larger problems.
Bird strikes are a common threat, especially in late summer and early fall. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), most bird strikes occur during aircraft landing from July to October each year. In addition, some bird species’ populations have grown exponentially, increasing the need for an effective solution.
Drones appeared to be one solution able to reduce the risk for bird strikes. The FAA has strict regulations on the use of drones, however, so they aren’t necessarily a viable option at this time. So, what other products are airports using for wildlife management?
Through the use of distress calls and predator cries, sonic bird control can deter several species of birds. Sonic devices emit sounds associated with birds’ instinctive fears, intimidating birds and signaling them to stay away.
Many wonder if birds become used to these sounds. Based on research by Dr. Philip Whitford, sonic devices work because these specific sounds lead to a behavioural or psychological change. The sounds make these devices a more permanent solution.
One of the benefits of sonic devices is that they can be pre-programmed and customised, ensuring that birds are hearing different sounds and frequencies at various times, which prevents acclimation. In addition, the sounds only affect birds, and humans typically don’t hear them.
These weather-resistant devices typically work over an area up to 30 acres, making them ideal for large outdoor spaces like airports. Airports like the Kunming Changsui International Airport (which used multiple devices for a comprehensive system) and Stockholm-Bromma Airport have experienced fewer bird-related accidents as a result of these systems.
It’s also worth noting that sonic control devices are a humane and non-lethal method of bird control.
Remote controlled laser technology is a somewhat newer approach to wildlife management at airports, but laser beams can help reduce bird strikes.
Laser beams act as a visual scare that threatens birds’ survival instincts. They can be designed for indoor and outdoor use, and are especially ideal for aircraft hangars and runways. Multi-coloured lasers change patterns to prevent behaviour acclimation. Laser devices can be used day or night. With advances in laser technology, they have now become ideal for large, industrial spaces.
Most importantly, lasers offer another humane method for maintaining safe facilities and keeping birds away from airports and runways.
A Multi-Sensory Approach
Managing birds in air traffic likely involves a multi-sensory approach in order to be the most effective. Depending on the environment and surrounding area of the airport, combining sonic and laser technology could produce the best results.
Additionally, investing in other products such as visual scares, predator decoys, or scent and taste aversions can improve the efficacy and permanency of airport bird control. Again, most bird strikes occur during landings, so ground control can be just as important as in-flight control. Developing an integrated pest management approach for birds and other wildlife at airports is crucial in decreasing the number of accidents, reducing wildlife damage costs, and improving the safety of animals, passengers, and employees.
This article was written by Ellen Borza, a content developer for Bird-X.