Understanding, Preventing, and Mitigating the Negative Effects of Wildlife Collisions with Aircraft, Other Vehicles, and Structures
Aircraft collisions with birds and other wildlife (wildlife strikes) pose a substantial safety and financial threat to civil and military aviation worldwide. The estimated cost (direct and indirect expenses) to civil aviation in the U.S. is nearly $1 billion annually, and the U.S. military incurs losses of well over $100 million each year. Wildlife strikes have claimed over 219 lives and over 200 aircraft (civil and military) since 1988.
Wildlife strikes with aircraft are an increasing threat to aviation in the U.S. and elsewhere, especially at higher altitudes, away from the airport environment. The number of wildlife strikes reported to the FAA increased steadily from 1,759 in 1990 to over 11,000 in 2013. Expanding wildlife populations, increases in number of aircraft movements, and a trend toward faster and quieter aircraft all have contributed to the observed increase in wildlife strikes. Concomitant with the increase in wildlife strikes has been greater emphasis on wildlife strike hazard research and airfield management.
Current approaches to reducing wildlife strikes with aircraft primarily fall under one or more of four categories: 1) habitat/food resource management, 2) wildlife dispersal, removal, and exclusion, 3) detection/prediction of wildlife movements and behavior so that aircraft can avoid high-risk activities, both temporally and spatially, and 4) the integration of sensory ecology, physiology, and anti-predator behavior to understand animal reactions to vehicles, with the goal of developing onboard systems (e.g., lights, paint schemes, sounds) that elicit earlier alert and escape behaviors in response to vehicles. A great deal of progress has been made in each of these areas in recent years, although key questions remain.