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Pilots wanted, bird brains a plus

If you think you can fly like a falcon, a Canadian firm looking to deploy Dutch-built robotic birds at airports to chase the real ones away may soon be recruiting pilots who have a talent for imitating raptors.

Robird, which mimics a falcon and is designed to drive birds away from areas where they pose a risk, including airports, will soon be deployed to protect airports. Pilots like Justin Quesnel of AERIUM Analytics, background, have been watching bird documentaries to learn the moves. Photo by Jim Moore.

Justin Quesnel is a remote pilot and data analyst for Aerium Analytics, and he has taken a shine to watching birds. Quesnel’s firm, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, will soon deploy a system at Edmonton International Airport that aims to make the airport a friendlier place to fly airplanes, and not so much for the birds that put aircraft and people at risk. The strategy is built around a robotic falcon made by a company in the Netherlands called Clear Flight Solutions, and a video that shows the robotic bird in action might leave you wondering which birds are real and which run on batteries.

“It’s a fun gig,” Quesnel said of flying the “Robird” that is now slated to begin protecting the Canadian airport, and likely soon to arrive in San Francisco and Dallas for bird patrol as well.

The falcon-shaped drone was among the more unusual systems on display at AUVSI Xponential in Dallas, and is made to mimic the real deal. Robird flaps its wings and flies exactly like a falcon, once the pilot gets the hang of it, and is virtually guaranteed to scare the you-know-what out of unwanted avians.

“I’ve been reviewing lots of predatory bird documentaries,” Quesnel said of his quest to better imitate the raptors.

The robotic birds (each is named after a famous aviatrix, such as Amelia Earhart) will scare up and herd a flock of birds quickly, but long-term deployment is needed to achieve a lasting effect. Aerium recently announced the first planned deployment, and company officials anticipate that if the idea catches on (or takes off) at airports, the Robird mission could expand rapidly, and also find application in other industries such as agriculture where there is value in pest control. Quesnel said the training program is a five-week, intensive course in avian robotics, though those who have experience flying radio-controlled aircraft can be ready in perhaps half the time.

The company is not yet accepting pilot applications, but check back here for updates on that.

Jim Moore
Jim Moore
Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Drone, Training and Safety, Technology

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