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Fearless Flyer

Scientists invented a robot that protects birds by getting them to fly away from airports. It looks like a falcon!

A view of the RobotFalcon's underside during flight.

All images – © 2022 Rolf F. Storms, Claudio Carere, Robert Musters, Hans van Gasteren, Simon Verhulst and Charlotte K. Hemelrijk, “Deterrence of birds with an artificial predator, the RobotFalcon” (CC BY 4.0)

Birds think this falcon is real, but it’s a robot!

Scientists in Europe have invented a robot that looks and flies just like a large bird called a falcon. The robot is an awesome flier, but it also has an important job. 

Scientists invented the robot to solve a serious problem. Flocks of birds often fly and land in and around airports. Sometimes the birds get hit by planes that are taking off and landing. Airport workers have tried different ways to scare away the birds. They’ve tried training real falcons to fly toward the birds. Falcons hunt smaller birds, so it makes sense that birds would be afraid of them. But falcons are expensive and hard to train. 

So scientists decided to create a robot that looks like a falcon. They studied a bird called the peregrine falcon to see how it moves when it flies. They made sure their robot could fly in the same way. They even painted the robot to match the colors of a real falcon. Then, they tested it with flocks of birds.

All images – © 2022 Rolf F. Storms, Claudio Carere, Robert Musters, Hans van Gasteren, Simon Verhulst and Charlotte K. Hemelrijk, “Deterrence of birds with an artificial predator, the RobotFalcon” (CC BY 4.0)

The robot is made to look just like a real falcon.

Since the falcon was a robot, scientists could get it to fly wherever they chose. They sent it to runways where birds were gathered. Did it work? Yes! The birds flew away, as if the robot was a real falcon.

Scientists say robot falcons could be used to keep birds safe all over the world.

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Fun Fact

A peregrine falcon dives with wings outstretched and blurred green trees in the background.

© Stan/

Peregrine falcons hunt by flying very high and then diving down toward flying birds. As it dives, a peregrine falcon can move up to 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour)!

Why Some Birds Fly in a V Shape

© The Invisible Highway LLC—Moment Video RF/Getty Images

Have you ever seen a flock of birds in the sky? You may have noticed that, together, the birds seem to make a shape in the air. Often, it’s the shape of the letter V. Why do birds do that?

For one thing, many kinds of birds fly in groups so that they can help one another. Larger birds, like falcons, hunt smaller birds in the air. A bird flying in a flock is safer than a bird that flies alone. Flocks of birds can also work together to spot food on the ground.  

Only some kinds of birds fly in a V shape. Scientists are still learning why, but they think that by making this shape, the flock doesn’t have to fight the wind quite so much. And that means each bird can use less energy to fly. Flocks of birds may also make different shapes, or change their shape, to confuse the birds that hunt them.

Flying High!

© FRANKHILDEBRAND—iStock/Getty Images Plus

A peregrine falcon’s wingspan is 3 feet (0.9 meters) wide! Learn more about these birds of prey at Britannica School!

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