Jan 9, 2017 | By Benedict

Clear Flight Solutions, a Dutch company that has developed 3D printed, wing-flapping bird drones called ‘Robirds,’ is ready to go international once it has finished trialling its product at a European airport. The 3D printed birds can be used to scare off real birds, which can damage aircraft.

For flight crew preparing to depart from an airport, one of the biggest obstacles to a smooth lift-off is birds. For while our avian friends may have been the inspiration behind winged aircraft, they also have an awful knack of getting in the way of them. Here to fix that problem forever is Clear Flight Solutions, the Dutch company behind the Robird, a flapping, flying, 3D printed drone that looks and moves just like a terrifying bird of prey. By flying the 3D printed Robirds around airports, the Clear Flight team can ensure that real birds are scared away from important areas, helping to prevent incidents such as the now-famous Miracle on the Hudson.

When we last reported on Clear Flight Solutions and their 3D printed Robirds back in April 2016, the Dutch company was preparing to take its unique service to Germany’s Weeze Airport, where staff had agreed to trial the flapping drones. (Clear Flight had also hoped to form a partnership with Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, but stricter Dutch airport regulations had proved a stumbling block.) Now, the drone specialist is looking to fly further afield, and believes its robotic raptor could soon migrate to the U.S. market. “We think we are ready to scale and we already have a lot of interest from military and international civil airports here in the U.S.,” operations manager Robert Jonker told Tech Crunch.

While some might panic at the thought of malfunctioning or poorly piloted drones crashing into aircraft and actually causing more harm than good, Clear Flight are quick to reassure the public that only their own staff—or a fully licensed operator—would be controlling the 3D printed birds. As such, Clear Flight will only sell Robirds as a service, which includes operation by a professional duo of pilot and observer, and will not be selling the Robird drones themselves. With a highly skilled pilot steering the Robirds via remote control, airport staff can rest assured that the 3D printed drones are acting in a precise, controlled manner, and pose no threat to surrounding aircraft or passengers.

Because Clear Flight is selling Robirds as a service rather than a product, getting the 3D printed birds into an airport (or even a farm or other bird-affected site) is not particularly cheap, with Tech Crunch ascertaining that a full day of the service could cost between $1,000 and $1,500. However, Clear Flight believes that the Robirds solution is actually more cost-effective and scalable than certain alternatives such as falcon training, since the 3D printed Robirds do not need much maintenance, and could potentially last for many years. Additionally, the Clear Flight team could later develop an automation system that would reduce or eliminate the need for manual piloting and thereby reduce staffing costs.

The Dutch company is due to begin flying its Robirds at Weeze Airport next month. If that maiden flight goes smoothly, then sky could be the limit for Clear Flight Solutions.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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