BY EMMA BRYCE
The ability to fly may be one of birds’ most enviable qualities, but it also makes them much more difficult to corral, even when it’s for their own good. While appropriate fencing may keep some land creatures safely away from the worst manmade hazards, such as waste management sites, the same does not work for our avian friends.
Enter the 3D-printed robotic bird of prey.
Designed by the Dutch company Clear Flight Solutions, the convincing imposters flap their wings and fly just like live avian predators. The “robirds” work like airborne, remote-controlled scarecrows, deterring live birds from venturing close to decidedly hazardous sites. Robirds indicate a definite shift from some of the more common methods of control—like culling wild birds near airports, placing chemicals on crops, or using loud noises to frighten flocks away
“From a biological point of view, the thing that triggers a bird’s instinct about a predator is the combination of silhouette and wing movement,” says Nico Nijenhuis, the company’s cofounder and CEO. The more convincing the robirds are as predators, the more likely they are to drive flocks away—which Nijenhuis wants to accomplish in key environments where birds shouldn’t fly.
Since Clear Flight Solutions launched in 2012 out of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, it has built two prototypes that look and fly just like two raptors—the Peregrine Falcon and theBald Eagle. The company is currently testing them, and hopes to formally launch the birds in 2015.
These artfully painted creations are made of a 3D-printed nylon and glass fiber composite that encases a small battery-powered motor to propel the foam wings. Steered remotely by someone on the ground, robirds soar overhead like elegant toy planes, circling, dipping, and swerving, even in strong winds.
They’re shockingly realistic—see for yourself.