Research Projects

Using NEXRAD weather surveillance network to forecast movements of migratory birds impacting safety at US airports

More than 14,000 wildlife strikes were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017. Globally, wildlife strikes have killed more than 287 people and destroyed over 263 aircraft from 1988 through November 2018 (Dolbeer and Begier. 2019). To warn pilots of potential wildlife hazards, airports often include generic language in the Automated Terminal Information System (ATIS) or Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) that does not provide useful or actionable information. Commonly these messages state, "use caution birds in the vicinity" and are not based on specifically observed or forecasted information. Some airports have integrated avian radar systems into their operations to detect local movements of birds; however, these systems are costly and have limitations making them impractical for the majority of airports. The existing infrastructure provided through the US weather surveillance radar network (NEXRAD) combined with recent advances in machine learning and computational power make it possible to study avian movements at large spatial and long temporal scales. Several studies have characterized bird migration with this sensor network and have related these characterizations to other data, such as weather and climatic patterns and artificial light pollution. Results from these research projects have been used to develop tools to track bird migration in near real-time ( These findings have yet to be related to wildlife hazards at airports but could provide more useful information to pilots, air traffic controllers, and airports.



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Idea No. 169