Can Autonomous Drones herd Birds away from Airports?

Autonomous drones can herd birds away from airportsDrones aren’t generally allowed to reach near airports without any specific purpose, like herding flocks of birds away from the airspace. These birds can put planes full of people in extreme danger. Manually operated drones can be unconvincing. If the operator gets too aggressive and disturbs the birds, the group of birds could scatter and become unmanageable. So, a team of researchers from Caltech has developed an algorithm. The new algorithm teaches autonomous vehicles how to efficiently and meaningfully herd birds away from the airspace of the airport. The researchers said that they were inspired by the 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 incident. It has come to be known as “Miracle on the Hudson”. The plane struck a flock of geese after taking off from LaGuardia and lost entire engine power.

The plane didn’t crash and the reason was that the pilots were highly skilled & experienced and they were able to perform a water landing on the Hudson River. The leader of researchers Soon-Jo Chung indicated that next time this kind of incident might not have such happy ending. So, they started finding ways to protect airspace from birds using research in autonomy and robotics. A study published by IEEE Transactions on Robotics and the team focused on the flock dynamics studies. They developed their mathematical model that how birds maintain formation and respond to threats along the edges of the flock. The birds flying along the edge detect external threats and they change the course that affects the birds next to them. They make a domino effect that changes the entire direction of the flock.

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