Usually, drones and airports do not come with good news when used in the same sentence. Most of the time incidents involving the two are about a lone, erratic, and unpredictable civilian drone cancelling flights. The threat of a drone colliding with planes – their engines especially – proves to be quite the stopping force. This leads to entire airports shutting down. Ongoing flights get delays, while incoming planes need to be reassigned to nearby airports.
Truly, drones just spell trouble for airports everywhere.
The Drone to Herd All Birds:
In an ironic twist of fate, a drone worked on in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) may actually help airports. Yes, at Caltech they are trying to build a drone that can help a more ancient enemy in airports. You see, before drones came into the picture, the main problem faced by planes were birds.
Birds had the same threat drones have now. They can go through a plane’s engine and disable it completely. Over the past decades, countless incidents transpired over airports around the world. Some involve broken windshields, while some involve planes crashing down.
Caltech hopes to create an algorithm to help a drone herd flocks of birds away from airports. Yes, like sheepdogs running around to keep livestock in line, their drone hopes to do the same to migratory birds. The algorithm keeps track of flight and behavioral patterns of birds commonly encountered in each airport. This means that for every airport, there is a distinct setting to match the wildlife in the area.
The main goal is to have an autonomous drone making rounds in airports. Once the system detect large amounts of birds, the drone can fly over and steer them away from the flight paths.
Several solutions have been suggested for airports over the decades. Some used trained falcons to keep birds away. Others tried sonar technology to create sounds that repel these feathery menaces from the area. Even more tried using drones, but this approach had the drone flying manually. With the algorithm, the drone can detect and fly on its own without the need for much human intervention.