Surprising Optical Illusion Can Be Used To Prevent Bird-Airplane Collisions

Posted: Oct 13 2018, 9:42am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 14 2018, 12:29am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Surprising Optical Illusion can be Used to Prevent Bird-Airplane Collisions
Display showing pattern at Lourdes-Tarbes-Pyrenees. Credit: Anthony Boigné

The so called looming effect gives birds an impression of imminent collision and induces avoidance in a wide range of species.

Every year, throughout the world, millions of birds collide with aircraft. Most of these bird strikes are minor and go unnoticed. But some result in serious damage to the plane. In the worst cases, an airplane can crash into the ground and cause loss of life.

To counter this danger, airports are already using many scare tactics and some of these are relatively successful as well. In the latest effort, researchers have developed a new technique that keeps birds away from planes and helps reduce bird-plane collisions.

Researchers know that birds' eyes are different from human eyes in many ways. Despite their superior visual ability, birds cannot detect some obstacles like glazed surfaces and are too late in detecting certain moving objects, like planes.

Using current knowledge about vision in birds, researchers have for the first observed responses of captive raptors to a series of visual stimuli. After more 300 tests, they concluded that only one pattern triggered avoidance behavior in birds. The pattern consists of concentric black circles on a white background and helped create an optical illusion or a so-called 'looming' effect that gave birds the impression of an imminent collision.

Researchers tested the pattern at Lourdes-Tarbes-Pyrénées Airport in France, where raptors like buzzards and kites are found in abundance and can cross the trajectory of an airplane. The pattern was displayed continuously throughout the day on two LED screens positioned in specific locations. More than 8,000 observations revealed that birds stayed clear of areas from which the screens were visible. In a real-life setting, the pattern induced avoidance in a wide range of species and the behavior was still observable after five weeks of continuous pattern display.

“This experimental study performed under controlled conditions on captive raptors confirmed the hypothesis that a “superstimulus” based on eye-shape characteristics combined with a looming effect may induce strong avoidance reactions,” the author wrote in the study.

“The results of our statistical model obtained in the field case study performed in an airport where raptors are abundant converge to show that raptors, but also corvids, were sensitive to this looming eyes stimulus and avoided areas where they were visually confronted with it.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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