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August 24, 2017

The FAA estimates that about 11,000 birds collide with planes every year across the country. While most of the time these accidents (often called birdstrikes) harm only the birds, they have the potential to bring down an entire flight. See, for example, Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s 2009 “miracle” landing on the Hudson River after colliding with a flock of geese.

But a group of four 12-year-olds from Utah — who call themselves the Bionic Porcupines 2.0 — may have just solved this problem better than any official agency.

After learning about birdstrikes, which the FAA has called a "major problem" because birds get too acclimated to repellent techniques such as noise-generating systems or pyrotechnics, the sixth graders began experimenting with sound systems, power washing, and robots to no avail. 

But when the group discovered a study that random motion scares aware birds, the Bionic Porcupines 2.0 created a deceivingly simple, clever solution: the Bionic Scarecrow. The “scarecrow” looks like a miniature version of air dancers outside of used car lots. It flaps and dances in the wind to scare away birds.

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The group installed their project at Salt Lake City Airport, which is located near wetlands and a migratory bird route. “When we tested it at the airport, they said that was the first time the birds had stayed away,” Allison Drennan, one member of the team, told local news KSL.com.

Their work has since been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North American Bird Strike Conference. The invention is patented and the group reports that they have been contacted by interested airports and airbases.

The Bionic Porcupines 2.0 are now crowdfunding on GoFundMe to travel to Washington D.C. to accept the EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award.

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