A new method of bird control


This three-part "Can Flying Birds Make Better Robots" blog series presents research and technology initiatives that seem a bit like something out of a sci-fi movie but are in-fact helping researchers understand the physics of flight and its application to the field of robotics and drones.

Birds. We LOVE them (especially our parrots), but sometimes when wild birds do what wild birds do they pose a danger to aviation, can be massively destructive to food crops and can spread disease from foraging in landfills. An important question has long been what method of bird control can effectively alleviate these situations without endangering the wild birds.

Well enter “Robirds”, a Netherlands initiative that has created robotic birds of prey that look and fly exactly like the real thing. These robotic birds are used to discourage real birds from straying into the paths of aircrafts, eating crops and spreading disease from their landfill foraging.

Prior to Robirds, the traditional (and bird-safe) methods of chasing off birds has been to recruit the services of a falconer—which is an individual that flies a trained bird of pray in an impacted area or scare them with noisy armaments, such as flash-bang grenades.

Robird top view

There were several aspects of the physics of bird flight (and its application to the field of robotics and drones) that Robirds inventors need to grasp. Nico Nijenhuis, the founder of Robirds, and his team had to first determine which parts of a flapping wing they actually needed to simulate. Once they simulated the basic hinging motion of the wing, they augmented it with a wing-tip pitching motion for maximum flexibility. The result was not only flight flexibility, but a perceived appearance of natural flight from the perspective of the target wild birds.

So far, the results have been impressive. They have two Robirds models, a Peregrine Falcon and an Eagle. The company has reported success at client airports using Robirds to keep birds away from airplane engines and as much as a 75% reduction in crop damage from wild birds.

Watch Robirds Fly

The two other robotic bird initiatives discussed in this blog series are Obie, a tiny parrotlet in laser goggles helping scientists discover a new phenomenon in the physics of flight and a “SmartBird” initiative that decodes bird flight to develop a machine that could take off, fly and land using only its own wing-flapping power.

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