New Laser Technology Could Cut Bird Strikes At Airports – Simple Flying

The AI makes decisions on target detection, tracking, aiming and firing, while the video camera captures real-time images of the assigned airspace.
While the occurrence of bird strikes is not usually a cause of concern, it can become an issue if the bird makes contact with vital or fragile aircraft components. Airports worldwide have had dedicated airside departments to find ways of combating bird strikes consistently. Over in China, scientists may have unlocked another potential solution that keeps the birds at bay – an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven system and lasers.
Professor Zhao Fan led the research with her team from the Xi'an University of Technology, and it was later published in the peer-reviewed journal Laser & Optoelectronics Progress in April. The scientists built a robotic system driven by AI, consisting of four parts: a camera to detect birds; a video processing module to track the target; a laser emitter; and a moving mirror to reflect and aim the beam. Once the AI system detects a bird, it decides on target-locking and uses the camera and a video processing module to track the bird as it continues flying in real-time.
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The camera is also equipped with image recognition and tracking algorithms, making sure it can do things like being able to identify birds and isolate them from surrounding objects in video images, such as buildings and aircraft. Other algorithms improve the stability of this calculation and reduce the chance of losing a target – especially important for birds flying at high speeds. It also reduced the calculation burden on the system’s AI.
These algorithms guide the high-energy laser beam that is painful but non-lethal toward the bird until it leaves the restricted air space. On-site experiments have shown that the bird-repelling system could be used accurately on birds flying within a range of at least 1,000 meters. When comparing with other algorithms already in the market, Zhao said,
"The new algorithm improved the average success rate and accuracy of visual image target tracking by more than 47% and 51%, respectively. Its performance exceeds other algorithms of the same type."
Though the AI-driven laser system has shown promising results in diverting birds away from the airfield, some civil aviation experts have expressed safety concerns about the technology. Even if the laser beams used on the birds are non-lethal and only painful, they could still prove a hazard to pilots' eyesight.
Lasers have been proven to incapacitate pilots through temporary blindness, disorientation, and even long-lasting eye injuries. If the system's accuracy is not 100%, the laser beams could shine on an aircraft instead of the bird.
Another potential risk is that the type of laser and beam intensity could affect the overall usefulness of the robotic system. Certain airports, such as the Dalian Jinzhouwan Airport in Liaoning, and the Wuhu Xuanzhou Airport in Anhui, are near the habitats of protected and endangered bird species, such as the common crane, the white crane, and the great bustard. Should the laser beams be strong enough to hurt these protected species, Zhao's system would violate local laws.
Zhou Haixiang, a wild bird conservationist in Liaoning province, highlighted that with the potential violation of local laws aside, the system could still be relatively useless as the birds would learn to adapt to the laser. He said:
“Even without harm, there must be a full investigation of bird species around the airport before deployment. According to our research, some species are immune to flashing lights and buzzers, so they may not react to the laser system at all.”
Considering how common bird strikes are, with around 20,000 such incidences reported annually, airports worldwide have tried using nets, sounds, and lighting systems to keep birds away. In some airports, the use of non-lethal shooting methods helps to scare the flying creatures away too.
Eventually, all methods have met with the same result of the birds adapting to them after realizing how harmless they are. Using Zhao's AI laser system could be effective enough to keep the birds away, but it would still only be for a short time, considering it remains non-lethal and only painful. There is also the risk of harming pilots, as reports of laser incidences have jumped by 41% since last year, which makes the possible deployment of the laser system all the more delicate and complicated.
Source: Wion News
Journalist – Charlotte is currently pursuing a full-time undergraduate degree majoring in Aviation Business Administration and minoring in Air Traffic Management. Charlotte previously wrote for AirlineGeeks. Based in Singapore.


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