Innovative Robot Keep Airfields Clear of Wildlife

Aurora, will patrol the Fairbanks Airport in Alaska.

May 23, 2024
Innovative Robot Keep Airfields Clear of Wildlife | Aurora, will patrol the Fairbanks Airport in Alaska.

It’s a dog, it’s a fox, it’s a coyote…it’s a robot? A new dog-like robot has entered the field. Created to help keep airplanes and animals safe by mimicking a predator, the Aurora, as it is known, will soon begin its important work at the Fairbanks airport in Alaska.

This robot can even dance
According to The Verge, though not often discussed, the issue of airplane-animal collisions at airports is not trivial. In 2023, 92 animal collisions were reported to the FAA at airports near Alaska. And that’s just Alaska.

Trying to mitigate this problem without harming wildlife requires some creative thinking. And that is where Aurora comes in. Aurora is a headless robot, about the size of a Labrador Retriever, reported Euro News. Aurora can climb rocks and stairs, and even do a little dance.

It is these movements that its creators, Boston Dynamics, hope will be part of a strategy to keep runways clear of wildlife, especially migratory birds in the autumn. Silly as it may seem, these movements are meant to mimic the movements of predators such as foxes and coyotes. Aurora can even be disguised as either a fox or a coyote, which hopefully will invoke a fear response in the birds and other wildlife. 

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DOT is even hoping that Aurora may serve as a deterrent to larger animals such as bears and moose. 

Preferable to a real dog
Aurora is just the latest in a long line of rejected potential solutions to the bird and wildlife problem at airports. One suggestion that was suggested in Alaska were flying drones spraying a deterrent that included grape juice, but it was deemed too risky. 

Likewise, according to The Verge, in the 1990s herds of pigs were released at Anchorage’s airport, in the hope that they would deter birds. This experiment was repeated in 2021 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

And yet, despite the fact that Aurora costs about $70,000, according to Ryan Marlow, Aurora’s robot handler, the robot is still preferable to a dog: A border Collie requires food, training, warmth, and doesn’t collect data for us,” he told Anchorage Daily News.

There is something about Aurora that evokes a sense of fun. Maybe it is the dancing, or just the very concept of a robot chasing birds around. Whatever the case, here’s hoping that Aurora can make airports just a bit more safe for people and animals alike. 

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.