An airport employs a formidable robot animal to deter wildlife from runways

Will Aurora, a robot animal, succeed in frightening animals away from runways?

robotic animal
Aurora the robot from Alaska DoT’s Instagram

Animal strikes at airports across the world are a significant economic and safety issue.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), deer alone have caused 1,200 civil aviation crashes between 1990 and 2019. However, birds still account for 97% of all wildlife crashes in the United States.

Last year, Alaska suffered 92 animal attacks on its runways. To address this issue, the Alaska Department of Transportation has devised a novel and unusual approach.

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The state’s second-largest airport, Fairbanks International Airport, will install a four-legged robotic predator to scare away wildlife from its airstrips.

The robot, which is the size of a dog, will be camouflaged as a fox or a coyote to prevent animals from crossing or wandering along the runway. It may be fitted with a faux fur print panel to resemble a predator.

robotic animal
Picture from Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Services website

Boston Dynamics, a firm that makes commercial robots, has developed the Spot Robot for this purpose.

The “Aurora” robot is anticipated to quickly scare away all types of nesting and migratory birds from the airfield.

Authorities are eager to see if Aurora can prevent larger animals like moose and bears as well.

In the past, authorities utilized a variety of tactics to discourage animals off runways.

They’ve done everything from placing pigs on runways (so they could eat bird eggs) in the 1990s to installing speakers to make loud noises, spraying grape juice with drones, and firing paintball guns at the animals.

Aurora is their latest attempt to deter animals from loitering about on the runways and costs around $70,000.

The robot has been labeled Aurora due to its vivid metallic hues, which resemble the Northern Lights that can be seen in the vicinity.

In a new DoT video, the robot can be seen walking, ascending stairs, and even appearing to dance while flashing brilliant green lights. The robot can be operated from a console and is comfortable moving on snow and ice.

Maya Bennett