Laser guns to keep birds at bay in Odisha’s lone airport

Reported by Sandeep Sarangi
Bhubaneswar, Feb 3:

With traditional methods of keeping birds at bay not proving very effective, authorities at Odisha’s lone airport have now decided to go hi-tech in their bid to minimise the risk of bird hits affecting air services.

An aircraft damaged by bird hit File PIc Courtesy: gawker.com
An aircraft damaged by bird hit
File PIc Courtesy: gawker.com

Instead of the old world methods like firecrackers and cages, the Biju Patnaik International Airport here will now have laser guns and zone guns to keep birds away from the runway.

Laser guns will light up the runway before the plane takes off or makes a landing. The bright light will keep birds away from the runway. Fluorescent ribbon sticks will also be deployed at the airport. The sound waves and frequency created from these ribbon sticks and its reflection in the light will discourage birds from coming inside the airport, sources in the airport administration said.

“We will deploy some high-tech methods. We will use zone guns that create a unique sound at a fixed frequency, which will keep birds at bay. We will also use laser guns to ensure birds don’t enter the airport premises,” said Sharad Kumar, Director of Biju Patnaik International Airport.

Airport authorities earlier used firecrackers and set cages or traps to catch birds and other animals and keep them away from runways. However, these methods did not prove to be very successful as proved by as many as 10 bird strike incidents in 2013 and 11 in 2014.

Airport authorities are also in talks with Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities to remove illegal road side hotels that throw food waste around the area inviting birds.

A four member team of ornithologists, which studied the bird menace in and around the airport recently, found that hawks and nightjars pose the greatest danger to air services.

It may be noted that a plane had to make emergency landing after getting hit by a hawk in the airport recently. However, the same species of grey hawks can still be seen around the airport.

The most dangerous of all the species, however, is the nightjar, which sits on the runway at night and doesn’t move even when runway is lighted.

The team identified birds of 20 different species during the day and seven more at night, including three species of owls.

The team, comprising Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH) scientist Shiba Prasad Parida, Bird Expert and Secretary of Snake Helpline Suvendu Mallick and PG Students of Forestry Shakti Nanda and Ashutosh Mallick studied the bird habitat in and around the airport to provide technical knowhow on how to avoid plane crashes due to bird hits.

The experts studied the environment during mornings, afternoons and nights for three days to identify the species of bird seen around the area, to find out why they have taken a liking for the area and to came up with preventive measures.

“Some of the birds seen here are seasonal. We will submit our report based on the species of birds seen in particular seasons,” said ornithologist Parida.

“The dense grass in the airfield is home to grasshoppers, which invite many species of birds. The small drain inside the airfield provides water to them while waste from hotels around the airport provides them with plenty of food. These birds live on the trees near the airport. We will consider all these factors and submit the report to the airport authority,” said snake expert Suvendu Mallick.