Did you know: using avian radar to prevent bird strikes

The hazard associated with aircraft sharing space with wildlife is as old as aviation itself. Radar ornithology is one technique that can provide more information on birds and other wildlife in the airport area. In 2020, Toronto Pearson installed two new avian radar units to test their effectiveness in helping to identify safety risks and prepare interventions. Of particular interest is wildlife activity occurring at night – some that has been very difficult to track using traditional observation methods.

About avian radar at Toronto Pearson

Using radar technology to identify bird movements is a technique that was developed after WW2. On traditional radar, air traffic controllers noticed pale wisps, which they termed “angels” or “ghosts”, and later identified them as migrating birds.

Avian radar technology continued to evolve, and now function by transmitting pulses as they turn, and any obstacles reflect the energy back. This reflected energy is identified as a “target” on the live feed. As targets are tracked, other attributes such as the location, altitude, speed, approximate size, and heading are calculated.

At Toronto Pearson, the avian radar is monitored by the wildlife biologists and control officers at Falcon Environmental. They assess the live data and try to identify these targets by using their experience and knowledge of the local landscape. Used in conjunction with other wildlife management techniques, the avian radar helps identify target areas where interventions may be necessary and allows wildlife officers to be more proactive when managing wildlife concerns.

We are also investigating how this new radar system can support identification and tracking of unwanted drones over the airport as well.

Share this page