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Green lasers keep birds off the runway

Lord Ingénierie will debut a system designed to keep birds off runways at June's Airport Build & Supply Exhibition.

France-based Lord Ingénierie has developed an automatic laser system designed to keep birds away from airport runways at night. The TOM500, which will appear at the Airport Build & Supply Exhibition in Dubai in June, uses sweeping laser beams to scare birds away from airport runways.

“This is brand new technology and totally different to traditional methods of dealing with birds at airports such as acoustic and pyrotechnic systems,” said Alain Danielou, project manager for TOM500. “Many major airports in the Middle East are near the coast and airports close to the sea tend to have particular problems with birds.”

Around 50,000 bird strikes on civil aviation aircraft are recorded worldwide every year. Around 11% of these incidents affect the flight of the plane. The threat is greatest when birds crash into windscreens or are sucked into jet engines.

According to figures released by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 2003, accidents caused by bird strikes had up until then resulted in the loss of 400 lives and the destruction of 420 aircraft. Of all reported birdstrikes, 90% happen at or around airports.

The TOM500 was developed after research by ornithologists from the French civil aviation authority (DGAC) found that birds’ eyes are sensitive to green light.

Lord Ingénierie took around one-and-a-half years to develop the system, which has been under testing for more than a year at Montpellier Airport in France. During this time, there have been no reported collisions with birds or any sign that birds are becoming accustomed to the laser. The product went on sale in 2005 and the company received its first order in January this year to install it at another French airport.

The TOM500 automatically begins scanning runways at regular intervals on pre-programmed paths once light levels go below a certain point.

Birds are apparently frightened away by the stick-like effect of the laser. The beam is close to the ground, causes no visual problems for pilots and is harmless to eyes and skin, according to Lord Ingénierie.

“The problem that birds pose to aircraft at night has until recently been underestimated because of the assumption that birds are roosting,” said Danielou.

“However, birds are easily disturbed and according to the ICAO, 40% of bird collisions happen at night. The TOM500 is particularly useful in the Middle East as, for much of the year, the light fades at around 6pm and there are 12 hours of darkness. We hope to find a regional distributor for the product at the Airport Build & Supply Exhibition.”

Visitors to the Airport Build & Supply Exhibition, organised by Streamline Marketing, will be able see to technicians from Lord Ingénierie demonstrate a hand-held version of the product.

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