The Robird and its inventor Nico Nijenhuis

Robird clears the skies at Farnborough Airshow

The world’s first commercially-operated mechanical bird drone has been keeping the airways clear at Farnborough Airshow this week, as the opening act of the trade show’s afternoon flying exhibit.

It is hoped that the sprightly drone, which is flown by a pilot under the UK CAA regulations for operating drones, will make the skies a much safer place for pilots at the airshow, by keeping the airways free from flocking birds.

Robird, a mechanical flying bird, or ornithopter, which is used for bird control, made its debut on Monday 11 July, shortly before the afternoon’s proceedings were called off due to inclement weather.

Clear Flight Solutions of the Netherlands and its British partner 3iC, the partnership behind Robird, developed the drone as a sustainable solution to bird control on airport runways. A prototype drone was given its first assignment in bird control at the Weeze airport in Germany back in April.

The drones on show at Farnborough have been designed to mimic the actions of a peregrine falcon. The flapping motion of the drone’s wings, combined with its distinctive silhouette, trick nuisance birds into believing that it is a real predatory raptor, the birds then react naturally by flying away to a safer area.

In the past, airports and train stations have used live birds of prey to control bird populations, but Clear Flight Solutions insist that the Robird presents a more sustainable and ecologically friendly solution to bird control.

At the moment, the Robird design is limited to the peregrine falcon; however, Robird’s developers are in the process of finalising other models, including a bald eagle, for use in the control of bigger birds. “These are just for small- and medium-sized birds, for geese, for example, we would need something bigger,” said Robert Jonker, Clear Flight Solutions.

While the current Robird prototype is available in a variety of colours to imitate the appearance of birds of different ages out in the wild, Jonker said that this is "just for the fun of it", and the actual colour of the drone does not affect its bird-scarring abilities.

“It’s not really important,” he said. “The birds react to the silhouette and the flapping motion of the drone.” 

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