EAGLE-EYED bird spotters passing through Southampton Airport recently may have noticed a species they couldn’t quite place.

Although it looks just like a falcon to the casual observer, the new arrival, named Robird®, is actually an ornithopter – a type of drone designed and flown to mimic the actions of a bird of prey, and used to deter real birds from the airport.

This innovative drone has been thoroughly trialled at Southampton Airport in partnership with NATS and the developers, Clear Flight Solutions. The successful trial means similar robot bird systems could take flight at other airports in the future.

Whilst airports employ a wide range of methods to reduce the risk, if a bird does collide with an aircraft during landing or take off – known as a bird strike – this can create a threat to flight safety.

Traditional bird scaring methods lose their impact over time and need to be backed up with lethal deterrents. The benefit of Robird® is that all types of birds see the drone as a predator and change their behaviour to keep well away. No harm comes to any bird through this method of bird control.

Dan Townsend, Southampton Airport’s airside operations and safety manager, said: “At Southampton Airport, we invest every effort to make sure our airfield is as safe as possible. Robird® is an innovative idea that we’ve found to be an effective and durable way to reduce bird strikes — so you could say this idea really has wings.”

Nico Nijenhuis, CEO, Clear Flight Solutions, said: “It has been a pleasure to be working with Ferrovial and Southampton International Airport. The professional approach to integrating Robird® into airside operations has led to a European first, with fantastic effects on bird problems and bird strikes. We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with both parties.”