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FAA Funds Avian Radar Evaluation


FAA Funds Avian Radar Evaluation

Merlin radar systemSince 1991, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided funding to the NWRC to conduct research to reduce wildlife strike hazards. This research has provided important information for managing hazards on and around airports and aided in the development of FAA regulations and advisory circulars.

Recently, the FAA provided NWRC researchers with $1.7 million to evaluate the effectiveness of avian radars at airports. The effort brings together experts in wildlife biology, ornithology, radar, and system integration from government, industry, and academia to evaluate the MERLIN Avian Radar System by DeTect, Inc.—one of several radar systems used to detect birds at and near airports.

The assessment effort is part of the FAA's overall investigation into the effectiveness of commercially available avian radar detection systems at U.S. civil airports when used in conjunction with other known wildlife management and control techniques. Though it is well established that radar can detect wild birds, there is little published information concerning the accuracy and detection capabilities related to range, altitude, target size, and effects of weather for avian radar systems. NWRC researchers will lead the effort involving experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and several universities. Efforts involve: 1) a technical evaluation of the candidate radar system, including sensor components and associated data delivery systems, 2) field evaluations of system accuracy using remote controlled aircraft and radio-marked wild birds, 3) an assessment of the integration of radar technology with other, more traditional aspects of wildlife hazard management at airports, and 4) a behavioral study on the potential effects of radar energy on bird behavior. Information gathered from these studies might contribute to the development of future wildlife hazard mitigation guidelines as part of an integrated wildlife hazards management approach at civilian and military airports across the country.

For more information, please contact nwrc@aphis.usda.gov.