16 Oct 2018
French development based on avian perception can both save rare birds and minimize fatal accidents.
Researchers from the CNRS and Université de Rennes, all in France, in collaboration with Airbus, have designed a visual pattern that achieves long-term avoidance of high-risk areas by birds of prey (“raptors”) – such as at airports and around wind turbines.
The scientists’ work opens the way for further investigation into the visual cognition of such birds, and it has applications for conservation, because raptors are among the most common victims of collisions with airplanes and turbine blades. The work is published in PLOS ONE.
Despite their exceptional visual acuity, raptors do not perceive certain hazardous obstacles such as glazed surfaces, or they are too late in detecting some moving objects, like airplanes.
In France alone, over 800 collisions between birds and airplanes are reported each year, with 15% of these classified as serious incidents. As available deterrent systems are hardly effective with raptors (smart birds typically learn to ignore "predator dummies" in a matter of days), scientists from the Éthologie Animale et Humaine (Ethos) research laboratory decided to develop a new means of repelling these birds from specific areas.
But it is not just the birds that suffer from these collisions: as the PLOS ONE article reports, based on many long-term sets of accident data from across the world, bird collisions are also the cause of many airplane crashes and human fatalities: