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Objectives of the service

FlySafe activities aim at demonstrating the viability of a combined space and non-space system to deliver real time and forecast of bird migration information.

Users and their needs

FlySafe users are the Air Forces of The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

The main need expressed by the Air Force partners is to further reduce the risk of bird strike in the case of military Air Force operations. This has been translated by Air Force partners in the following requirements:

  1. improved nowcast and forecast of bird density information through a standardized information to reduce bird strike risks during en-route operations
  2. improved real time information on bird densities at and near airports to reduce the risk of bird strike during taking off and landing activities

Service/ system concept

Two main demonstration services are provided by FlySafe:

  • Hourly updated  visualization of bird migration densities covering geographic areas of Belgium and the Netherlands
  • Hourly updated 3 days forecasts for Belgium and the Netherlands (see

Space Added Value

Space technologies play an important role for the characterization of global movements of birds and, indirectly for provision of environmental parameters that indicate initiation of migration, stopover behavior, shortage of foods and other parameters that together are used to model and predict bird migration. Models use earth observation data on landscape, land use, environmental and weather conditions together with global bird migration routes provided by navigation based systems and combine those data sources with in situ observation of bird migration to generate quasi real time and forecast of bird migration.

Product Features

FlySafe system combines direct and indirect measurements of bird migration from space systems (including Earth observation and navigation satellites) with in situ bird migration information (from ground radar, military and weather radar) through models that generate three dimensional nowcast and forecast of bird migration.
Earth observation satellites are primarily used to collect environmental data including landscape, land use and weather properties which strongly condition birds behaviour and hence their local and global movements. Positioning satellites are used to collect information on single bird species by using system like GPS-ARGOS that can track and trace the dynamic of movements from local up to global scale.

Key Issues

  • Federation and coordination of the users and their requirements
  • Standardization & Interoperability
  • Increase efficiency of operational systems

Current Status

FlySafe activities have been completed. 

The following results have been achieved by FlySafe: 

  • By end 2007, a common set of requirements were jointly proposed by the air forces involved in the FlySafe project;
  • The system was designed accordingly and the resulting FlySafe system concept was positively evaluated by ESA and partner air forces.
  • The development and demonstration activities of the FlySafe proof of concept were successfully completed in 2009, showing the capability of such a system to mitigate the risk of bird strike in military aviation in particular. Following this successful demonstration phase, Dutch and Belgian air forces proposed the creation of an operational service, to be hosted by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).
  • Based on their proposal, the FlySafe operational service has been established and is being operated by KNMI. The FlySafe service operational platform provides forecast and nowcast (quasi real time information) services on bird presence in northwest Europe, accessible at
  • The Belgian and Dutch air forces have acknowledged the effectiveness of FlySafe, which has significantly reduced the operational impact of bird strike prevention activities. Moreover, FlySafe contributed to improving international cooperation among the EU air forces on the bird strike issue. 

A number of spin-off activities have also been initiated thanks to FlySafe. These include:

  • Facilitating Robin Radar Systems start-up: through the involvement of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), FlySafe supported the development and validation of:
    • Robin 4++, a system to detect bird migration using military long range surveillance radars;
    • Robin lite, a specialised small range radar to detect bird movements at and near airports. During FlySafe, the Robin lite system was operated and successfully tested at the military airbase in Woensdrecht, in The Netherlands.

In the summer of 2010, following the successful demonstration of Robin technology as part of FlySafe system, a new company, Robin Radar Systems, was spun-out of TNO. Robin Radar Systems provides bird strike risk reduction services based on the exploitation of avian radars (military and small range) which were enhanced, validated and promoted by ESA through the FlySafe project. 

Since 2010, Robin Radar Systems has grown from 4 to 25 employees and has won contracts in the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Turkey, Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, France, Norway and Spain. It is currently expanding its business towards the Middle East.

Recently, the Minister of Dutch Economic affairs labelled Robin as one of 100 most innovative SME companies in the Netherlands.

Robin’s success has been recognised by external investors, who have gone on to become shareholders. In particular, Inkef Capital (ABP) and the Mainport Innovation Fund (KLM, Schiphol Airport a.o.) are providing substantial funding in support of the company’s international roll-out and its ambitious innovation agenda. 

  • FlySafe-2 project: this project was initiated by Royal Netherlands Air Force in 2011 and wholly funded by the Dutch Defence Research & Development Agency. The main objectives are to refine the FlySafe bird migration prediction models and explore the possibility of extending the geographic coverage of FlySafe services through co-operation with new European weather institutes and other air forces and users. 

The service capabilities demonstrated through FlySafe could pave the way for new developments to serve wider geographic areas and user communities. Many different communities need more comprehensive, easily accessible and understandable information about bird distribution and movements at different scales and their interaction with the environment.


Mitigation of risk of bird strike in aviation

Bird strikes on aircraft pose a real safety threat for both military and civil aviation. Depending on specific circumstances such as the speed of the aircraft, the point of impact, the mass of the bird, the number of birds and the type of aircraft, bird strikes can result in devastating accidents. 

FlySafe aims at improving and harmonising national bird-warning systems into an extended and standardized System of Systems (SoS) to improve flight safety in northwest Europe for military Air Force operations.


FlySafe activities  were carried out by the following industrial partners:  University of Amsterdam, TNO Defence, Security and Safety, Robin Radar Systems, TriOpSys, SARA Computing and Networking Services, the Institute for Avian Research (Vogelwarte Helgoland), the Swiss and Dutch Ornithological Institutes (SOI and SOVON), Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Meteo France, Belgian Meteorological Institute, IDA TU Braunschweig, Thales Raytheon Electronic Systems and Thales Alenia Space. 

Status Date

Updated: 18 March 2014 - Created: 15 February 2014