Skip to main content

Invisible ‘sonic net’ makes birds avoid airports, stops them from being obliterated by planes

Airfields are high-risk areas for bird strikes, sonic net could keep them away
Jan Kranendonk/
Birds and airplanes don’t play well together, and collisions can end badly for both the birds that crash and the passengers aboard the aircraft. That’s why a new technique uses ambient noise to create a ‘net of sound’ that birds dislike so intensely, they stay away from the area completely. The sonic net doesn’t harm nearby bird populations, but it does keep them away from flight paths at popular airfields so that everyone involved can take off and land safely.

In order to test the technique, researchers set up speakers and amplifiers around a Virgnia airfield. For the first four weeks of the trial, during which there was no ambient noise turned on, they observed an abundance of birds in and around the airfield. But for the last four weeks of the trial, they activated the sonic net by generating ambient noise at a volume level comparable to a busy restaurant. Results from the trial showed that the number of birds in the areas covered by the sonic net decreased when it was activated, particularly in the case of high-risk species like starlings.

In the past, technologies to curtail bird strikes have been limited outside bird-proofing airplanes themselves. Many options involve killing at-risk birds, scaring them off, or relocating them completely, none of which are animal-friendly techniques and most of which are ineffective solutions. Bird strikes cost as much as $937 million annually in the United States alone. Between 1988 and 2013, bird strikes were responsible for 255 deaths, and have done immeasurable damage to the populations of migratory birds.

Without doing any damage to the bird populations, the sonic net technique makes it difficult for birds to hear each other. The ambient noise is about as loud as the predatory noises that birds are trained by evolution to heed, so without a clear shot at hearing those warning signs, birds are uncomfortable.

“The birds don’t like it and leave the area around the airfields, where there is potential for tremendous damage and loss of life,” said John Swaddle, the University of Exeter research associate who led the study. In the future, the bird-deterring system could even be used to clear other areas where migratory species are at immediate risk, like solar farms and wind turbine fields.

Chloe Olewitz
Chloe is a writer from New York with a passion for technology, travel, and playing devil's advocate. You can find out more…
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more