Birds can spell big trouble for airplanes. Canadian geese forced Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger to land his plane in the Hudson River, and it was a bird that recently forced a Dallas-bound American Airlines flight to return to the Seattle airport with a massive dent in its nose. Now, a new technology could prevent bird strikes by creating a “sonic net” around runways.
Bird strikes cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to civil and commercial planes in the U.S., and billions of dollars worldwide. Bird strikes occur most frequently on take-off and landing, so keeping airfields free of birds is seen as the key to cutting down on the collisions. Bird strikes were also responsible for 255 human deaths between 1988 and 2013, as well as the loss of countless migratory birds.
The sonic net involves filling the area around an airport with a steady stream of acoustic noise that interrupts bird communication and essentially annoys birds into leaving the area. "By playing a noise at the same pitch [as their communication], we mask those sounds, making the area much riskier for the birds to occupy. The birds don't like it and leave the area around the airfields, where there is potential for tremendous damage and loss of life,” Professor John Swaddle, a visiting Research Associate at the University of Exeter who lead the study, said in a news release.
It sounds like an unlikely solution, but the researchers found an 82 percent reduction in bird presence in the area that was surrounded by the sonic net. According to the Huffington Post, researchers will soon start testing the technology at commercial airports.
Technological advances are fantastic, but a sonic net is not nearly as cuddly as Traverse City’s airport’s one-dog bird-chasing K-9 unit, Piper.