The Israeli Air Force is using bird-tracking radar technology to ensure safe aviation over Israeli skies, one of the busiest junctions of avian migration routes worldwide.
In the past 25 years, 10 Air Force planes have crashed in collisions with migrating birds, resulting in the death of three pilots. The new system, developed at Tel Aviv University, can now tell pilots where the birds will be in real time.
Twice a year, during their annual migrations, 500 million birds fly through Israeli air space on their way to Eurasia and Africa. Just one bird colliding with a fighter jet can cost $1 million.
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But now, Tel Aviv University’s, Yossi Leshem, is making the skies a safer place for men and birds, with real-time bird-tracking radar technology.
Leshem, who’s been heading up the radar project, has created a digitized system from what was once weather radar.
The system, he says, indicates “when the birds [are] coming and leaving, what height they’re flying [and by] which route.”
The Israeli Air Force has modified its flight plans accordingly.
Leshem elaborates, “The radar, which was developed to identify clouds, can identify birds from a distance of 100 kilometers. We can see a stork from 70-100 kilometers from here. So in Central Israel, from Hadera until Beersheba, we can monitor all the birds which are flying on the migration.”
And for the Israeli Air Force, that’s invaluable information.
Head of the Bird Strike Prevention Section of the Israeli Air Force, Major Oded, says, “When we find them, we give warning to the aircrafts, real-time warnings about the specific location of the flocks. This is the way we try to prevent… serious accidents.”
Up until now, the only data available to the Air Force was the expected migration patterns.
Dr. Leshem’s real-time system has attracted interest from Jordan and Turkey in developing a regional network for sharing information on flock movement, which is a potential boon not only for pilots but for the birds, as well.
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