Rotorua Airport to trial robotic magpie

Wingspan drone pilots trial robotic magpie at Rotorua Regional Airport. Photo: Maurice Summerfield.

Rotorua Airport has teamed up with Wingspan to trial a drone-like robotic magpie as an innovative, new method of deterring birds from the runway.

If adopted, Rotorua Airport will become the first airport in the Southern Hemisphere to use this method of bird control.

The Ro-Magpie is remote-controlled and designed to safely deter birds from the runway before aircraft land and take off.

Two Wingspan drone pilots have tested the effectiveness of the device by flying the Ro-Magpie across the runway.

Rotorua Regional Airport, Fire and Operations Manager Ben Alton says he started exploring the idea after seeing a hawk being used during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships to stop birds flying on to the court.

'I asked Wingspan if it was possible to get a falcon out at the airport and that's when they mentioned they had two Ro-Magpies we could trial.

'We currently use an array of methods to scare birds away, including driving up and down the runway, spinners on the grass and remote control canons. Introducing this new technology would be hugely beneficial for our team.

'If we decide to add this technology to our arsenal, there is potential for us to buy one through Wingspan and train staff onsite to use it as an alternative, or alongside our existing methods.”

Supplied photo.

Wingspan Administration Manager Shannon Campion says Wingspan is the only organisation in the Southern Hemisphere currently using the Ro-Magpie.

'We use them to train our falcons - they allow us to build and maintain their fitness and demonstrate to our visitors the way in which New Zealand falcons, as pursuit predators, will chase their prey down and bring it to the ground."

The drone was designed by Wingbeat Rofalconry, a company based in the United Kingdom.

Originally designed as a fitness training tool and hunting strategy for falcons, the concept has since evolved into a wildlife control tool, keeping birds away from wineries, crops and airports.

Alton says it is the first time an airport in the Southern Hemisphere has trialled the Ro-Magpie.

'We're really excited about it. It will be hugely beneficial for Rotorua Airport and it's a great way to optimise the technology we have.

'Rotorua Airport is ahead of the pack but this tool could help airports across the country in the future.”

Campion says Wingspan has been using the drones for more than three years now.

'While it was a long process to train our team to pilot them, they are skilled at what they do."

'The drone is made of polystyrene so it can't operate in heavy rain or strong winds, but we are confident it will be a great additon to some of the methods the Rotorua Airport currently uses.”


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.