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WSB: Airport’s avian radar spots just 15 percent of birds

Cara J

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Airports don’t just use radar to keep a watch out for airplanes coming and going. Some also use it to look out for birds, which pose a collision hazard for air traffic. But how well does radar work for spotting birds? In a study published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, researchers from USDA Wildlife Services and the University of Illinois collaborated to see how well the three avian radar systems used by O’Hare International Airport outside Chicago performed. Comparing on-the-ground observations with radar data, the team found that the radar sensors tracked just 15 percent of the birds or flocks of birds that researchers spotted from the airfield. Birds that were larger, closer and flying higher were more likely to be tracked. This trailer houses two of the three avian radar systems used to monitor birds at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. ©University of Illinois “We were surprised when we got the results,” said TWS member Brian Washburn, a research wildlife biologist at Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Research Center field station in Sandusky, Ohio. Bird strikes pose a significant safety and economic threat to commercial aircraft. Researchers say annual economic losses exceed $690 million in the United States and $1.2 billion [...]

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