Robo-Falcons Will Soon Patrol Edmonton International Airport

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a robotic bird protecting planes!

A robotic falcon prepares for takeoff.
A robotic falcon prepares for takeoff. Clear Flight Solutions

Counterintuitive as it may be, birds and planes don’t get along. Ever since Orville Wright knocked into a flock while flying over a cornfield in 1905, airborne humans have worked hard to keep their feathery predecessors away from airports, where they tend to crack windshields, bend sensitive instruments, and get sucked into fuselages.

To keep birds away, airports have shot off fireworks, hired snipers, and planted vast prairies nearby so that birds will live there instead. Now, according to a recent press release, Edmonton International Airport has decided to up the ante: they’re going to bring on a fleet of robo-falcons to chase away the real birds.

A Dutch company called Clear Flight Solutions introduced these robo-falcons, otherwise known as “Robirds™,” just a few years ago. Unlike other drones, these are the size and shape of the birds they’re meant to imitate. They move around by gliding and flapping—often extremely wildly, if the below video is to be believed:

The airport “will integrate CFS’s Robird™ technology to guide birds safely away from air traffic, while discouraging nesting near airside operations and glide paths,” the press release says. The hope is that this will be an eco-friendly solution to a difficult problem—and thus a win for both birds and planes.

The robo-birds will mostly inscribe figure-eights near—but never over—the runways, Tim Bibby, who is involved with the new program, told Motherboard. The airport will also be hiring pilots to fly the birds. So if you’ve always admired the world’s original aeronauts, this might be the job for you.

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