• Evaluation of an Avian Radar System

      Gerringer, Michael B. (2014-03-18)
      The problem of bird strikes in aviation is becoming an increasing threat, both to aircraft and to human safety. Management efforts have reduced wildlife hazards below 500 feet and within the immediate airport environment, but traditional methods of monitoring bird activity are limited to an observer’s field of view. Avian radar systems could potentially be useful in monitoring bird activity at great distances from the airport, at higher altitudes, and at night (Dolbeer 2006), but little work has been done to validate the tracking capabilities of avian radar systems. Thus, the goal of this research is to evaluate the detection and tracking abilities of the Merlin Avian Radar System provided by DeTect Inc. Radio-controlled (RC) aircraft flights were used to systematically test the tracking abilities of the Merlin System with respect to distance and altitude. Transits by free-flying birds provided an equally important test of the Merlin System, allowing for the assessment of tracking performance as influenced by flock size, altitude, and distance from the radar unit. Overall tracking performance regarding the RC aircraft and single large bird targets was poor across all study distances and altitudes. However, flocks of large birds such as geese and cranes were tracked well, even those several miles away from the radar unit. Given these results, avian radar could be a useful tool for monitoring bird flock activity at airports, but less so for single large bird targets such as thermalling raptors.