Satellites, GPS help combat bird strikes

Jan. 15, 2013 at 6:41 PM

PARIS, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A European project using satellite data and bird tracking could trim bird strikes that have killed hundreds of people in the last two decades, researchers say.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says bird strikes have killed more than 231 people and destroyed over 220 aircraft worldwide since 1988.

The European Space Agency, in partnership with the air forces and research institutions of several European countries, has been conducting a FlySafe project that uses weather and environmental data from Earth-observing satellites and tracking of individual birds from space using global positioning system tags. The information is combined with local migration information from ground radar to improve national bird-warning systems.

"Air forces use the system in combination with their surveillance radars for en route bird strike prevention, during low-flying exercises, for example," said Siete Hamminga, head of the Dutch company Robin Radar Systems, which has been offering a commercial version of the system.

"With their long-range detection, these systems can scan hundreds of kilometers around. When a bird strike risk through high migration densities is identified, it is relatively easy for air forces to postpone flights or bring them in," Hamminga said in a release from ESA's Paris headquarters.

The space agency's involvement has provided a "significant contribution to the rise of Robin.

"This is the explosive mixture you get when combining applied science with entrepreneurship."

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