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Robot to Play the Role of Airport 'Scarecrow'
February 12, 2012

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At some airports in Korea, robots will be roaming the runways soon, to scare the birds away.

It's all part of a plan to reduce the number of deaths and damaged aircraft caused by bird strikes. It's a real problem in South Korea, where 400 people since 2003 have died when birds have struck aircraft. Such incidents have also damaged 420 aircraft. The International Civil Aviation Organization reported that 40 percent of those incidents have occurred at night.

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute has put a lot of time, effort, and money into the development of a semi-autonomous robot, which is much larger than life-size and is equipped with a heavy battery of bird-scattering sounds. The sounds, which include the screams of hawks, can resonate up to 100 decibels and carry a long, long way.

The robot is similar to one already in use, except that the existing one was stationary; so even though it would emit sounds that could be scary to the kinds of birds that hang around airports, the robot wouldn't move, and so birds would become accustomed to sounds coming from the same spot all the time. The new robot will move around, so the birds won't know from one moment to the next where the sounds will come out.

The robot, which looks a bit like a Transformer, can shoot non-harmful lasers that collect information about birds' movement patterns. That information can be fed into a central computer operated by terminal staff, who also send out the instructions to the robots in the first place.

The whole thing has the title of Airport Birdstrike Prevention System and will bees tested at a Korean military airport in June. If all goes well, the robot could be deployed at a civilian airport next year.


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