A bird for a bird? Say hello to “Robird” that defends airports against bird strikes

Collisions between wildlife and aircraft are a common occurrence-one that causes billions of dollars in aircraft damage every year whilst also placing countless human lives at risk.

So what are the international airports at Edmonton and Grand Forks is North Dakota doing about it?

It looks like a bird. Flies like a plane. Or let’s just say it’s a bird that’s a plane – the “Robird”- a robotic bird that closely resembles a Peregrine falcon in this case, looks so strikingly real to its real-life counterpart, but it’s not.


Robirds are basically robotic birds that closely resemble natural birds, both in appearance and in-flight behaviour-they fly by beating their wings, can soar, and have speed and wing frequencies similar to a real bird.

The Peregrine “Robird” here, soars near the runway at Edmonton and Grand Forks to deter birds from interfering with air traffic.

Featuring wings that flap, it flies as swiftly as a falcon and can clock speeds up to 27 miles per hour.

Bird strikes are dictated by the seasonal changes in migratory patterns and the risk of bird strikes increases as more airplanes take to the skies.

This novel drone-a ornithopter, that mimics the look and actions of the predatory bird, is produced by Aerium Analytics, a multi-disciplined drone solutions company based in Calgary, Alberta.

Since its inception in 2016, and what began as using drones for forestry, energy, mining and logistics, the company is now focussing on harnessing the power of aerial data for environmental good.

It’s all about the data. Drones can collect vast sums of high quality geospatial data in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually

Says Aerium CEO Jordan Cicoria
Jordan Cicoria | Unmanned Systems Canada

After having expanded its fleet of drones, the company has now developed artificial intelligence-powered detection and analysis software and a simplified visualization portal. The collected data is taken and rapidly translated into useful visual information for decision-makers in highly regulated industries such as airports and mining.

Aerium’s use cases at airports include real-time detection of foreign object debris (FOD), runway markings inspections and perimeter security.

According to Cicoria, conventional methods of bird deterrents, such as pyrotechnics, air cannons and loudspeakers had minimal effect and had negative environmental impacts as well.

Facts and figures show that RoBird’s impacts have been significant.

Up to an 80% reduction in bird strikes over a year has been reported by Aerium’s partner airports.

RoBird works because the Peregrine falcon is one of the most feared aerial predators in the world. It is known on six of the seven continents. Nearly every flocking bird species has been predated on by Peregrines

Cicoria said

Apparently, Aerium’s pilots fly them manually around the world in places ranging from high visibility airports in the U.S. and Canada to blueberry farms in the Netherlands and dredging operations in Kazakhstan.

The company eventually plans to have full autonomous flocks-in-a-box, with onboard detect-and-avoid and integrated wildlife detection sensors.

RoBird is a perfect example of the evolution of drone technology which looks at what nature does incredibly well and finds ways to replicate. The integration of drones in our daily lives will occur when they make work and life safer and benefit the world. RoBird does just that


He likes to think of it as a perfect bird-strike mitigation and wildlife management tool and refers to it as a “sheepdog in the sky.”


COVER: TechCrunch