Innovation That Matters

Birds and plane

Optical illusion saves birds' lives by preventing plane collisions

Raptors could be saved from plane collisions via an unusual visual pattern.

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Spotted: Innovations often aim to improve human lives, yet Springwise has also spotted innovations designed to help other species. Bio-logging tags that protect endangered species and an app that identifies primates at risk of extinction, are just a few examples. Now, research from the CNRS and Université de Rennes 1, in collaboration with Airbus, could help save avian lives.

The scientists have designed an optical illusion made up of concentric black circles on a white background. This creates a so-called ‘looming’ effect and gives the birds the impression of an upcoming collision. The effect helps birds avoid planes and other high-risk areas, depending on the placement of the visual pattern. The work focuses especially on protecting raptors, as they are some of the most at-risk birds in the sky. The eyesight of raptors’ is far superior to human sight but they cannot detect some obstacles, like glazed surfaces. Otherwise, their depth perception can mean that they are too late in detecting certain moving objects, like planes. Reports of over 800 collisions of birds occur in France every year.

The scientists’ work will lead to further investigation into the eyesight of raptors and how we can better assist and protect them from our own airborne activities. The research naturally has applications for conservation and could also help in other forms of animal control, such as herding or breeding of endangered species.



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