Airport Robot Will Be Disguised as Coyote or Fox

Alaska authorities plan use Aurora to scare wildlife away from runways
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2024 2:51 PM CDT
Disguised Robot Will Scare Wildlife Away From Runways
An Alaska Department of Transportation robotic dog walks through snow in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 26, 2024.   (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

A headless robot about the size of a labrador retriever will be camouflaged as a coyote or fox to ward off migratory birds and other wildlife at Alaska's second-largest airport. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said its "new hire" Aurora will be based at the Fairbanks airport to "enhance and augment safety and operations," the Anchorage Daily News reports. The transportation department released a video of the robot climbing rocks, going up stairs and doing something akin to dancing while flashing green lights. Those dancing skills will be put to use this fall during the migratory bird season when Aurora imitates predator-like movements to keep birds and other wildlife from settling near plane infields, reports the AP.

The plan is to have Aurora patrol an outdoor area near the runway every hour in an attempt to prevent harmful encounters between planes and wildlife, said Ryan Marlow, a program manager with the transportation department. The robot can be disguised as a coyote or a fox by changing out replaceable panels, he said. "The sole purpose of this is to act as a predator and allow for us to invoke that response in wildlife without having to use other means," Marlow told legislators last week. The panels would not be hyper-realistic, and Marlow said the agency decided against using animal fur to make sure Aurora remained waterproof. The idea of using a robot came after officials rejected a plan to use flying drones spraying a repellent including grape juice.

The test period in Fairbanks will also see how effective of a deterrent Aurora would be with larger animals and to see how moose and bears would respond to the robot, Marlow told the Daily News. If the test proves successful, Marlow said the agency could send similar robots to smaller airports in Alaska, which could be more cost effective than hiring human deterrent teams. In Alaska, wildlife service teams currently are used to scare birds and other wildlife away from runways with loud sounds, sometimes made with paintball guns. Last year, there were 92 animal strikes near airports across Alaska, including 10 in Fairbanks, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.

(More robots stories.)

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