Ny Teknik: KTH Spin-off Scares Birds Away From Airports

Article by Ny Teknik published on August 2, 2023


Swedavia is testing a new scare tactic to reduce the risk of bird strikes at Swedish airports. Drones identify different aerial fans and chase them away with tailored sounds. Birds are a constant scourge of air traffic. Collisions with geese and other birds pose safety risks and can also cause costly damage and delays.


In collaboration with the startup company Flox Robotics, the airport operator Swedavia is therefore testing a new way to scare away birds and also small game such as badgers and rabbits that have strayed into the airport. Flox, which was founded at KTH in 2020, has developed an autonomous system that is mounted on drones with thermal cameras, and which can distinguish different birds and animal species. Then they automatically play different sound mixes that cause the identified species to take flight.


The technology is based both on artificial intelligence, robotics and wildlife knowledge. One of the challenges is that the animals get used to the simple scare sounds, our algorithms therefore adapt to their reactions and behaviors in real time, says Flox CEO Sára Nožková to Ny Teknik. During the month of June, the company’s drones were tested at Malmö Airport with good results. Both birds and rabbits could be scared away. The algorithms are now being trained to recognize different bird species with greater accuracy, and in October the technology will begin testing at Kiruna airport.


The following spring, further tests await at Umeå airport. In Malmö, the drones were controlled manually by a drone pilot. In the future, Flox aims for autonomous systems where the drones work in cooperation with the air traffic controllers. In addition to the sound signals, the company is also testing various lights and other signals to discourage unwanted visitors.


The project with Swedavia runs for two years and is financed with SEK 5 million from Vinnova. At the beginning of the summer, Ny Teknik wrote about how the Flox drones in another project were to be tested to herd away geese that pollute swimming areas.


For three weeks, the city of Stockholm used the method at Sätrabadet, among others. We managed to herd more than 500 geese, and now we are looking at how to proceed before next year’s bathing season, says Sára Nožková. In previous articles, Ny Teknik has also described how the company’s drones can patrol farmland to scare away various wild animals that damage the crop.


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