Birdstrike Control Program provides FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) or VMIT (Vehicle-Mounted Thermal Imager) systems for use in its wildlife control programs at airbases around the world. On occassion we also utilize night-vision goggles in order to assist us in locating mammals on an airfield at night. However, the major benefit of a thermal imager over night-vision technology is that thermal imaging detects infrared wavelengths, as opposed to night-vision systems, which enhance visible light. As a result, thermal imaging is not affected by ambient light. This enables us to:
1) Use the system in an environment where bright lights are in use at night without losing the images
2) To use the system during the day.
There is also the added benefit of the extreme long-ranges available on some of the products available today. Some of the thermal imagers on the market offer imaging and magnification of distances up to 20 km. While such extreme distances are not needed in the direct control of wildlife, a system with a longer range capability (up to a mile) greatly benefits us when dealing with flocks of birds crossing an airfield. These systems allow BCP to “see” the birds coming from a distance at any time of day. For example it greatly assists BCP personnel in determining the movements of geese across an airfield and iInstead of waiting for a given period of time before assuming the flocks have ceased their movements, using the long-range thermal imager we are able to advise pilots of actual “windows” in the geese’s movements.
Beyond the benefits of advising on transiting flocks at an airfield, a thermal imaging system greatly enhances effectiveness of BCP personnel during nocturnal migrations. One of the main problems with dealing with nocturnal migrations near an airfield is the inability to see them. Spotlighting only provides one with a limited range of vision (i.e. the length and width of the beam). Trying to keep a single moving bird in a spotlight is extremely difficult and it only allows one to deal with one bird at a time, which is not at all effective.
The systems also allowBCP to spot roosts of various birds (raptors, ground-nesting birds, etc) and harass them . The images illustrate the effectiveness of the system in finding ground-roosting birds. It should be noted that the owl in the image stands out in the “naked eye” image much more due to its color, than most other ground-roosting species, which are generally far more camouflaged in the grass.
FLIR systems also allow us to search the woods and open spaces throughout an airfield to clear out mammals, such as deer and coyotes. We use thermal imagers to spot deer encroaching on airfields at night and use them during the day to locate deer in trees and brush so we can capture them or drive them farther away from the flightline. Overall the systems make our wildlife control efforts much more efficient.
The benefits of using the thermal imaging systems as part of a BASH program are not limited to handheld or vehicle mounted systems. There are systems available which could be used by the control tower in the place of a radar system. Whereas radar systems are often ineffective for BASH use because they are too sensitive (picking up dust, rain, insect swarms, etc.) and not detailed in their “imaging”, the use of ATC tower-mounted thermal units have proven quite effective. Although such an elaborate system may not be necessary at all airfields, some version would certainly improve the overall safety on the runways and would be highly recommended over the use of a radar system.