Air Force

Airborne bird strike countermeasure

Addresses safety of air travelers, crew, and wildlife

Photonics

According to the FAA, there were about 142,000 bird strikes with civil aircraft in the U.S. between 1990 and 2013 and about 11,000 strikes at 650 airports in 2013. As recently as April 26, 2017, an American Airlines flight from Reagan National hit a flock of birds during takeoff and had to make an emergency landing at Dulles. On June 1 of the same year, a United flight had to return to O’Hare after its engine caught fire when it struck a bird after takeoff. Perhaps the most well-known incident was the landing of an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River after takeoff from La Guardia. The plane struck a flock of Canada geese resulting in the failure of both engines. The Air Force tracks an average of 6,500 bird strikes per year resulting in 1.3 fatalities and a loss of 1.2 aircraft per year.

To address this incident rate, Air Force researchers have developed a system that utilizes a combination of sound and light sources onboard an aircraft to deter avian species from maintaining a collision flight path with an aircraft. The sound may be changed to target specific species or may be tuned for a wider avian affect. The sound may be a frequency-specific tone or a predatory avian species call common to a region and avian dialect. The light effect is emitted from existing installed aircraft landing lights, but with the ability to flash the lights at a designated frequency. This is intended to be an always-on system below 10,000 ft and 250 knots airspeed.

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