Although the occurrence of bird strikes is not usually a cause for concern, it can become an issue if the bird makes contact with critical or delicate aircraft components. Airports around the world have dedicated air departments to find ways to deal with frequent bird strikes. In China, scientists may have uncovered another possible solution that keeps birds at bay – an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered system and lasers.
Technology drives the birds away
Professor Zhao Fan led the research with his team from Xi’an University of Technology, and it was published later in April in the peer-reviewed journal Laser and Optoelectronics Progress. Scientists built a robotic system powered by AI, consisting of four parts: a camera to detect birds; a video processing module to track the target; a laser emitter; and a moving mirror to reflect and target the beam. Once the AI system detects a bird, it decides on target-locking and uses a camera and a video processing module to track the bird as it continues to fly in real time.
The camera is also equipped with image recognition and tracking algorithms, ensuring that it can perform tasks such as identifying birds and being able to distinguish them from surrounding objects in a video image, such as buildings and aircraft. Other algorithms improve the stability of this calculation and reduce the chances of missing a target – especially important for birds flying at high speeds. It also reduced the computational burden on the system’s AI.
Most collisions between birds and aircraft occur during take-off and landing, with 90% above airports and 50% within 30 meters of the ground. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | simple flight
These algorithms guide a high-energy laser beam that is painful but non-lethal toward the bird until it leaves the restricted air space. On-site experiments have shown that the bird-repelling system can be used accurately on birds flying within a range of at least 1,000 meters. When comparing it with other algorithms already in the market, Zhao said,
“The new algorithm improved the average success rate and accuracy of visual image target tracking by more than 47% and 51%, respectively. Its performance exceeded other algorithms of the same type.”
Although the AI-powered laser system has shown promising results in driving birds away from airspace, some civil aviation experts have expressed safety concerns about the technology. Even though laser beams used on birds are non-lethal and only painful, they can prove to be a threat to pilots’ vision.
Lasers have been proven to disable pilots through temporary blindness, disorientation and even long-lasting eye injuries. If the accuracy of the system is not 100%, the laser beams may shine on the aircraft instead of the bird.
Another potential risk is that the type of laser and beam intensity may affect the overall usefulness of the robotic system. Some airports, such as Dalian Jinzhouwan Airport in Liaoning, and Wuhu Xuanzhou Airport in Anhui, are near habitats for protected and endangered bird species such as the common crane, white crane, and great bustard. Should the laser beam be strong enough to injure these protected species, Zhao’s system would violate local laws.
Laser attacks on aircraft have increased, with reported cases increasing by more than 40% over the past year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | simple flight
Zhou Haixiang, a wild bird conservationist in Liaoning province, highlighted that even with potential violations of local laws, the system may still be relatively useless as birds learn to adapt to the lasers. he said:
“There should be a thorough screening of bird species around the airport before deployment, even without loss. According to our research, some species are immune to flashing lights and buzzers, so they may not react to the laser system at all.”
Considering how common bird attacks are, with around 20,000 such incidents reported annually, airports around the world have tried to use nets, sound and lighting to keep birds away Is. In some airports, the use of non-lethal shooting methods also helps to scare away flying creatures.
After all, birds have all had similar results after realizing how harmless they are. Using Zhao’s AI laser system can be quite effective for keeping birds away, but it will still be only for a short period of time, as it is non-lethal and only painful. There is also a risk of harm to pilots, as reports of laser incidents have increased by 41% since last year, making the potential deployment of laser systems more fragile and complex.
Source: Wien News