Bird strikes on aircraft may be rare, but not so rare that airports shouldn’t take precautions against them. But keeping birds away is a difficult proposition: how do you control the behavior of flocks of dozens or hundreds of birds? Perhaps with a drone that autonomously picks the best path to do so, like this one developed by CalTech researchers.
Right now airports may use manually piloted drones, which are expensive and of course limited by the number of qualified pilots, or trained falcons — which as you might guess is a similarly difficult method to scale.
Soon-Jo Chung at CalTech became interested in the field after seeing the near-disaster in 2009 when US Airways 1549 nearly crashed due to a bird strike but was guided to a comparatively safe landing in the Hudson.