Making aircraft more visible with lighting and patterns may help to prevent bird strikes.
Aircraft colliding with wildlife costs the worldwide civil aviation industry more than $1.2 billion annually, according to researchers.
Most efforts to prevent bird strikes center on airports, but broader strategies are needed as demonstrated by the forced landing of a 2009 US Airways flight in New York’s Hudson River after hitting a flock of Canada geese.
A team of U.S. researchers have studied how Canada geese react to various radio-controlled model aircraft, combining visual sensory ecology with anti-predator behavior.
“Birds see so much differently than humans do, so we cannot translate our own perceptual understanding to the problem of birds avoiding aircraft,” explained study co-author Bradley Blackwell at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a statement.
The team observed the response of the geese to three remote-controlled aircraft—one with lights on, one with lights off, and one painted to look like a bird of prey.
They found the birds reacted fastest to the aircraft with lights on, both individually and in groups. The birds responded similarly to the standard and predator models, suggesting that they are exhibiting anti-predator behavior.
“Because Canada geese will respond to aircraft approach as a potential threat, the theory behind how animals respond to predators is very applicable to understanding the response to aircraft approach, and we can enhance this response via lighting,” Blackwell said.
This is the first step in the researchers’ plans. They aim to design lighting systems visible to a range of birds by studying other species that are often involved in aircraft strikes.
“As well as lighting, we also want to understand how to manipulate aircraft paint schemes so that birds find them easier to detect,” Blackwell concluded. “It’s exciting work.”
The study was published in British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology on July 9.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.