Q: How does RoBird® work?
A: RoBird® is an ornithopter, and achieves lift and propulsion by flapping its wings and steering with tail flaps. When in full throttle, an observer launches, and the pilot remotely operates from the ground. The pilot will maneuver the RoBird to aggressively chase birds away. He can also direct flocks in any direction – effectively ‘herding’ them to safety. It is the combination of flying technique and silhouette of the apparent predator that make it successful at bird hazing.
Q: Why use a peregrine falcon design for RoBird®, and can I request different species?
A: We chose the falcon design because it is a predator that hunts birds from higher altitudes in open areas, like airports. Other predators like buzzards or hawks hunt lower to the ground for rodents. These therefore pose a much lower threat to birds. We also chose the design because falcons are the most widely recognized bird of prey on earth. There are different varieties of the raptor on every continent. This feature makes it versatile enough to conduct operations anywhere. They are also the most agile and fastest animal in the world. The average diving speed of a peregrine falcon is 320 kph (200 mph).
These characteristics strike fear into prey. Additionally, the shape and size of the animal lend themselves to engineering more than larger designs.
Q: How do you know RoBird® is effective, and do birds habituate to it?
A: Over the course of several years, RoBird® and partners tracked bird populations and bird strikes on each project. This allows us to see how populations changed over time, and gauge reactions of different species in different activities. Data indicates RoBird® is highly effective in the majority of cases, and birds do not habituate. This overwhelmingly positive effect is likely due to the randomized, erratic, and aggressive nature of ‘hunting’ techniques pilots perform. An ongoing probe also confirms the effectiveness of RoBird®.
Q: Does RoBird® work on large bird species and other birds of prey?
A: Larger species of bird, such as turkey vultures, Canada geese, cormorants, and pelicans, do react to RoBird. They will startle and thereafter leave. In numerous instances, the field team intercepted flocks of Canada geese mid-flight. They break up the group, and redirect the geese away from high-risk areas, like active runways. Turkey vultures reacted in probes, and cormorants and pelicans were scared away in other projects. Birds of prey, like hawks, red kites, and falcons, exhibit agitation by the presence of another predator. They tend to approach theRoBird in their territory, and afterward leave. RoBird can even ‘lure’ them away.
Q: Why use RoBird® as opposed to traditional falconry?
A: Occasional use of live falconry helps to reinforce the perception of predation. Therefore, we view RoBird® and falconry as working hand-in-hand, and not in opposition. Like any bird hazing tool, falconry can be effective, but has some limitations. The benefit of RoBird® is that the operator is in complete control, all the time. It can also target specific birds and direct flocks. RoBird® flies all day, as many times as desired, and does not need to rest. There is no animal training or feeding. However, RoBird® supports cooperation with falconers and other hazing methods to reinforce long-term effectiveness.
Q: What are the specifications of the RoBird®?
A: The RoBird® is 1 m in length and weighs 750-800 grams. Our engineers make the body out of plastic composite, and its wings of a foam composite. It flies in temperatures as low as 0°C (32°F), for up to 15 minutes. However, a flight will only last 2-4 minutes, as birds will typically be gone by that point. The RoBird can fly against up to 20 kts winds with 25 kts gusts and mild precipitation. Although it can fly up to 4 km away, pilots do not fly beyond line of sight.
Q: How much area can one RoBird® cover?
A: Although RoBird is capable of flying several kilometers away, pilots never fly beyond line of sight. The maximum distance is typically about 300 m away from the pilot. Birds have excellent eyesight, so the effect can be up to 1,000 m away. During operations pilots work in one location at a time, covering multiple locations throughout the day. The aircraft is battery-powered and can complete multiple flights per location if necessary. Pilots keep several batteries with full charge on hand while working, and recharge them while in the field.
Q: Is RoBird® autonomous, and does it have sensors or cameras?
A: RoBird® currently requires a pilot on the ground, manipulating the controls. Our engineers are working toward autonomy within the next few years. Contrary to popular assumption, it also does not contain any sensors or cameras. It is only used for bird hazing in wildlife management operations.
Q: How Much Does RoBird® Cost?
A: RoBird® units are not for sale.
Q: Why is RoBird® training important?
A: RoBird® can be challenging to maneuver, especially in difficult weather conditions. Those who go through training not only learn how to operate the remote and fly safely, but also how to perform core maintenance and calibration. These are crucial skills a pilot must have so as not to have accidents and resolve basic mechanical issues and repair parts.
Q: Is RoBird® safe?
A: RoBird® must only fly in locations where it is safe and legal to do so. This means an acceptable area has ample space for turning maneuvers, and little or no human or large animal presence. Buildings, powerlines, and other obstructions should be at a considerable distance. Pilots work with resident wildlife specialists, USDA, Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Control, and other stakeholders to ensure safety. All pilots are fully trained, licensed, and authorized to fly in the project area. The unit itself is also contains failsafes which prevent it from presenting a risk to manned aviation and others. These failsafes include a preprogrammed geofence, return to home and return to launch functions, and a kill switch. We inspect units for safety before each flight, and pilots only fly if they are physically and mentally capable.
Q: Where Do we Use RoBird®?
A: RoBird® flies on projects and demos in the UK, France, Germany, UAE, South Korea, China, India, Kazakhstan, the US, Canada, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.