PHOTOS: Sea-Tac Airport Demonstrates New Bird Radar Technology
On a drizzly Thursday morning (Jan. 14th), officials from Sea-Tac Airport demonstrated some brand new toys â€“ a new, advanced bird tracking system with real-time displays of bird activity on and around the airport â€“ and Photographer Francis Zera got lucky and was invited onto the actual runway.
In partnership with University of Illinois researchers and the Federal Aviation Administration, Sea-Tac is the first airport in the country to begin the use of this technology, which will allow wildlife management staff to access live data as they patrol the airfield to minimize bird hazards.
Sea-Tac Airport has been the demonstration site for avian radar research since 2007, and in fact currently has three avian radars installed, two on the top of the airport’s office building and one in the middle of the airfield between two runways (see photos below for details).
“Sea-Tac is a leader in the evaluation of this technology,” said Dr. Edwin Herricks, the leader of the University of Illinois research program, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “I don’t know where this program would be without the input and real-life evaluation efforts by the staff and support from the Port of Seattle.”
Through the FAA-designated Center of Excellence for Airport Technology (CEAT) at the University of Illinois, the latest milestone in the research program builds on equipment from Accipiter Radar Inc. that provides geographic displays of bird activity on Google Earthâ„¢ maps.
“This technology will give us situational awareness of the entire airfield day or night – it will be like wearing a huge pair of binoculars,” said Steve Osmek, Sea-Tac Airport’s wildlife biologist. “Rather than depending only on what we can see from our particular location, we’ll be able to know if there are bird issues anywhere around the airfield so we can respond quickly and appropriately.”
Here’s Francis Zera’s Photo Slideshow: