TWENTE, Netherlands, April 13 (UPI) -- A life-like robotic falcon known as Robird is set to take to the skies surrounding Weeze Airport in Germany. Robird's mission is simple: scare birds away from Weeze's airspace.
The robotic bird was designed by a team of Dutch researchers just across the border at the University of Twente. The team spun their design into a company called Clear Flight Solutions.
"We already fly our Robirds and drones at many locations, and doing this at an airport for the first time is really significant," Nico Nijenhuis, company CEO and a grad student at Twente, explained in a news release. "Schiphol Airport has been interested for many years now, but Dutch law makes it difficult to test there. The situation is easier in Germany, which is why we are going to Weeze."
Currently, bird control at airports is difficult and expensive. Worldwide, collisions between birds and airplanes result in yearly damages totaling billions of dollars. Occasionally, accidents caused by birds are fatal.
Because birds are rather clever, they quickly recognize more rudimentary scare tactics and mitigation technologies and simply avoid them. Robird so closely resembles a peregrine falcon in appearance and flight pattern that birds will see the robot bird as a dangerous predator -- reason to stay far from the airfield.
Researchers with Clear Flight Solutions are currently training air traffic controllers at Weeze to fly the robotic falcon.
"If you operate at an airport, there are a lot of protocols that you have to follow," Nijenhuis said. "You're working in a high-risk area and there are all kinds of things that you need to check. We use the latest technologies, but the human aspect also remains crucial."