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Drones: from Caltech the UAS to remove the birds from the airports

Driven by an algorithm that allows it to minimize the risks of collision

A system designed at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to try to definitively solve one of the most serious problems for civil aviation, namely the swarm behaviour that fly near airports that are likely to cause serious damage to aircraft. The most famous case is probably that of the plane operating the US Airways 1549 flight that had a bird-strike during take-off, forcing the pilot to make a landing on the Hudson River, which was resolved thanks to his skill and luck, without victims; the accident could have been decisively different.

A UAS drone (Unmanned Aerial Systems) could be the solution. To explain the operation of such a system is the aerospace engineering professor at Caltech Soon-Jo Chung who coordinated the research thinking of "a drone capable of acting independently to keep the birds away". This would allow to overcome the techniques currently used in airports that fail to reduce to zero the bird-strike risk, since the birds or get used to the countermeasures understanding that they are "fake", or moving to another area of the airport remaining a danger.

The difference between a radio controlled aircraft and an autonomous drone equipped with an algorithm lies in the fact that this can react "in real time to the behavior of a large flock". So far the UAS built in California as told by Chung "managed to successfully remove flocks of herons and loons from the airports, thanks to studies carried out also on the behavior of birds". Once approaching the flock, the drone begins to advance keeping behind the "distance of fear" -avoiding abrupt and dangerous changes in the altitude of the birds- and begins to move sending acoustic signals that cause controlled changes of direction of the flock.

The Ut of Caltech will soon start experimenting both at airports and in the Californian vineyards to protect them from crows.

M/A - 1213808

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