Last week was the 2016 AAAE Bird Strike Committee Meeting USA in Chicago. In attendance were airport management personnel, military, consultants and exhibitors, one being Flock Free at our first Bird Strike show.
Snarge is the term used to describe the bird carnage left after a strike with a plane. I believe there will be a lot more attention to snarge after the release of the new Clint Eastwood Directed Movie, Sully, about the US Airways Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River after BOTH engines were taken out by a flock of geese.
In this summary I will describe what we displayed. The remainder of the article will describe the uniqueness and why these new technologies will work better than the typical things (noise makers, pyrotechnics, etc) that have been deployed to solve bird issues in the past.
In attendance in partnership with Flock Free was Sam McClintock from Sonic Nets. Sonic Nets are an amazing new technology that mask the birds ability to communicate. A series of speakers (not intended to scare the birds) are used to broadcast background noise in the same frequency that the birds communicate thereby screening their ability to communicate making them uncomfortable thus driving them away. Each bird species vocalizes in a specific frequency. Sonic Nets builds sound files specifically for each species and multiple sound files can be used within a single broadcast. The interest level with both military and civilian airports was very high.
Flock Free displayed two proprietary technologies designed to clear birds from open air spaces. Flock Free Hazers (not the same as the bird control term “hazing” which means harassing) emit an invisible, lighter-than-air “haze” of methyl anthranilate (MA) that has been used as a bird deterrent for many years. The key to success with MA is delivering the product into the air. Most MA applications are spray-on and have various issues getting the product to the bird. Aerial application is inhaled by the birds irritating the trigeminal nerve. We typically use our hazers in conjunction with “visible” deterrents like our flock reflectors (maybe not at airports however) that allow the birds to associate the invisible haze with a visible object training them to stay away. We call this process association.
Flock Free’s other SIGNIFICANT introduction was our new vortex canon. Yes I said canon so get yourselves engaged and be prepared to be amazed. The Flock Free Vortex Canon, built in partnership with Newton Systems , is not a noise making canon. Propane canons have been used for years in an “attempt” to deter birds, BUT, the birds adapt rapidly to them and they fail like most other bird devices. Yes, vortex canons make a load noise but they also send shock waves screaming through the air. I will write more on this later in the article and give you some Wildlife Biologist’s perspective. The Flock Free Vortex Canon is a couple weeks from final unveiling so you will have to get an idea of what we are presenting from the following videos of some not-so-good-looking-but-functional imitations.
There are a lot of physics going on here and too much to describe in this article. I will describe the why of this technology if you want to “read more”
Back to the Sonic Nets – to reiterate Sonic Nets do not scare birds. Sonic Nets mask their ability to communicate. There was an amazing amount of interest in this technology. Flock Free is the first company to Partner with Sonic Nets to bring the product to market. Sonic Nets were researched and developed at the College of William and Mary by Prof. Mark Hinders and Prof. John Swaddle.
One of the messages I heard over and over is that there is currently no technology capable of diverting flocks of birds in-flight. Once a flock is headed over an airfield they cannot be persuaded to change course. Airports across the country are interested in testing the sonic nets to find out if broadcasting the background noise into the air and disturbing communication within the flock will bring this desired result.
Sonic Nets, like other bird technologies, are not a stand-a-lone solution for birds. They are part of an Integrated Bird Control (IBC) program. To a human the Sonic Nets sound like an irritating gas leak so using them where people are constantly present is difficult. However sound experts are very good at placing sound into some areas while keeping it away from other areas. The technology is easy to understand in layman’s term but there is a lot to it with respect to system design and install.
The other technology potentially capable of turning birds in flight is the Flock Free Vortex Canon. I had interesting conversations with both Gary Searing, noted Wildlife Biologist and member of the Canadian Bird Strike Committee and with Phil Shaw, Managing Director with the world renown Avisure Consulting Firm from Australia.
These men have been dealing with birds and bird strikes for years and upon seeing the Vortex Canon both believed we were on to something potentially very special. Both informed me that loud noises do not deter birds, at least not to the degree needed. However, upon seeing the Vortex canon, hearing the noise, understanding the shock waves it produces and hearing the screaming vortex ring blast for up to 30 seconds into the stratosphere, well, let’s just say they get it. Gary offered to do some testing in Canada as soon as the canon is ready.
Mr.Shaw said he recommends bull whips over explosive devices because shock waves do a better job deterring birds than sound waves and whips create shock waves by breaking the sound barrier. Both agree that the Vortex Bird Canon will out-perform what is currently available, especially at long distances. The proof will come soon as testing begins in the next few weeks, first in pistachio fields in CA, then at airstrips in CA followed by testing at the Quad City Airport in IL. Birds are a major issue there due to the fact that they are on the Mississippi Flyway at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Rock Rivers.
Stay tuned for more updates.