Birdstrike Risk Reduction for Civil Aviation

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The activity is concerned with reducing the risk to civil aviation of an accident in the airport airspace environment as a result of bird strike. The activities include identification of relevant stakeholders within Civil Aviation and/or other interested areas, capturing requirements for a bird detection and/or prediction system, undertaking a full review of the legal liability, service provision and commercial aspects. The final objective is the identification of feasible systems and services for long-term optimal services as well as for short-term implementable services. In parallel a prototype bird presence prediction system based upon the combination of space assets, existing systems and bird movement prediction models will be implemented and validated to give Civil Aviation an idea on what kind of services can be made available in the short term. The role and feasibility of a bird strike mitigation system/service in civil aviation will be defined with the support of relevant users of the identified services.

Objectives of the service

The long term objective of the activity is to provide sustainable services to civil aviation, airport authorities and other interested stakeholders in order to reduce the number of bird strikes and their impacts. The high level service concept is of a system integrating existing measures and technologies with space-based assets to provide timely notification and prediction of the presence of birds in the areas at and around airports.

The feasibility study addresses the following issues:

  • What role can space technologies play regarding the prevention of bird strikes at and around airports and what is their added-value to new systems and services compared to existing systems and services?
  • How could such a system and its associated services reduce/solve the problem of bird strikes at and around airport areas?
  • What sustainable services can realistically be provided considering the current available assets?
  • Can the feasibility of such a system and its associated services be proven thereby preparing the ground for a follow-on demonstration project?
  • Can the viability and sustainability of such an integrated system (space and non-space technologies) and its associated services be proven?
  • Which are the gaps that cannot be overcome with existing assets and what are the possible future technologies able to solve these issues and provide sustainable services?

Users and their needs

The target users of this activity are civil airports throughout the European region. In addition airlines, air navigation service providers and regulators all have a potential role in future services. The activity is currently supported by the airports of Heathow (UK), Schiphol (NL) and Manchester (UK) .

About London Heathrow Airport: Heathrow is Europe's largest and busiest airport and second in the world in terms of total passenger traffic. It is owned and operated by BAA, owner and operator of another five airports in UK and operator of other airports worldwide.

About Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: Schiphol is the Netherlands main airport, being Europe's fifth-largest airport in terms of passengers and third-largest in terms of cargo. It is owned and operated by the Schiphol group which also operates other four airports in the Netherlands as well in other countries.

About Manchester Airport: Manchester is the largest UK airport outside the London area. It is owned by the Manchester Airports Group, owner of three additional airports, being the largest regional airport operator of United Kingdom

The activity is fundamentally concerned with reducing the risk to civil aviation of bird strikes. The users are interested in the provision of services to assist in the process of bird hazard management and in the direct detection of birds that pose an imminent safety risk to civil air traffic. It is a task of the project to fully elaborate the user needs for all of the identified applications. The activity is addressing an area that has not been considered officially until recently, so a number of benefits are expected. In the first instance it will elaborate explicitly for the first time the user requirements for a future technological solution to the detection and prediction of bird presence in the airfield environment. It will also provide the first objective system level assessment of the potential for space technologies to contribute to a future bird detection/prediction system. Furthermore, through the involvement of a broad range of aviation and non aviation stakeholders it will raise the general level of awareness of possible future space based solutions to the challenges posed by birds in the airport environment.

Service/ system concept

The activity is pursuing the delivery new services to allow users to better manage the risk associated with bird strikes at and around airfields. Services shall be fully integrated with existing infrastructure to minimise potential hazards regarding flight safety. It is a task of the project to fully elaborate the service concept related to these new services.

Space Added Value

Space assets have the potential to provide various elements of a future bird hazard management service including, amongst others, the provision of Earth Observation data as well as satellite navigation and communication to support the tagging of birds.

Product Features

At this stage, a conceptual architecture is proposed. This architecture will be filled and/or modified during the different stages of the study (see figure). This will serve as the basis for defining the near-term system:

System archicture

The architecture can be split in three main parts:

Sources: the sources that will provide bird movements related data for the system. In the initial design the role of the sources is to provide data for the Bird Strikes System. This will include space assets data, which correspond mainly to the available and useful Earth Observation and GNSS services, ornithological data (collected for example through in situ observations, or existent models), ground assets (such as dedicated and/or non-dedicated bird direct detection radars, ground weather stations), historical and ancillary data and finally, the use of other types of information is expected which could be integrated into the overall system, e.g. information / alerts from current airport systems regarding bird strikes mitigation (e.g. airport bird patrols).

In resume, two main types of sources will be contemplated:

  • Predictive data obtained from existent models and other historical data;
  • Real-time data obtained from radars, weather stations and current airport systems.

These two source types are expected to allow the system not only to predict a risk level, but also to alert whenever conventional systems are triggered, thus integrating all alert sources into one single interface.

Bird Strike System: As shown above, the system can be divided in five major parts:

  1. Communication Interface - responsible for providing the communication capability to the different information sources and serve as a channel of communication to and from the bird strike system.
  2. Data Processing - After receiving the data from the communication interface, this module performs data pre-processing, information extraction, building map layers and storing information in the data warehouse.
  3. Data Modelling - This module is responsible for application of models for bird behaviour and movement/presence.
  4. Visualisation - This module creates nowcast and forecast layers in order to enable better response regarding bird strikes mitigation.
  5. Warning Service - This module is responsible for the implementation of a proactive alert mechanism for users (e.g. airport systems, airport authorities, air traffic service providers). This mechanism will be capable of warning not only users but also imminently affected aircrafts.

Clients: The ultimate end users of the system who will obtain both predictions and real-time warnings for use in their operations. This system is expected to beneficiate the following end users:

  • The airport operations function - responsible for management of the airfield environment, notably for bird management activities;
  • The airport air traffic management function - responsible for management of air traffic in the vicinity of the airfield and whilst on the ground;
  • The airport aeronautical information services function - responsible for the provision of timely and accurate information to flight crew for use in pre-flight planning.
  • Other potential stakeholders, not necessarily directly related to the aviation world, like authorities in charge of planning the usage of land surrounding the airports.

Key Issues

The key issues being addressed by this project include:

  • Bird detection/prediction system user requirements
  • Service provision commercial and liability aspects
  • Technical system architecture definition
  • Prototype proof-of-concept system

Current Status

The project has recently commenced and initial activities are concerned with capturing user requirements and examining potential technological solutions to the problem of bird presence prediction or detection. A stakeholder workshop was held providing further additional inputs to these first tasks. An external Advisory Board is providing support to the activity.

Status Date

Updated: 20 May 2010 - Created: 15 February 2014