Airport bird strikes could become a thing of the past if a newly-developed type of grass is put into widespread use. Conceived and produced in New Zealand, the material may provide a solution to a problem that costs the aviation industry an estimated $1.4bn dollars each year.
The so-called Jackal grass seed incorporates a type of fungus that produces an unpleasant taste for birds and other creatures, giving it deterrent properties suitable for airport settings, especially around runway and taxiway areas.
Birds that eat the grass, which is now being sold as Avanex, aren't harmed by it, but it does make them sick afterwards. It's been undergoing testing since the late 1990s and, as a result, scientists are confident that the fungus-infected grass is enough of an avian deterrent to stop birds eating it again, once they've tried it.
Bird Deterrent Grass
The bird deterrent grass was developed by Doctor Pennell and colleagues at AgResearch - a state-owned New Zealand biotech firm.
"Bird strike is a $1.4 billion problem for the aviation industry...and if we can reduce the attractiveness of an airport to birds, then we don't have to use guns and flashing lights to chase them away", he explained, in comments quoted by One News.
To date, the anti-bird strike grass has been trialled at New Zealand's Christchurch Airport: its now being planted at other sites, including Hamilton and Auckland airports. Of course, the product has applications beyond airport use - potentially, it could be deployed at any location where birds are considered undesirable. But the large, open spaces in and around airports are a long-term location of choice for birds, suggesting they're where Avanex could really come into its own.
Airport Bird Strikes
Data published in 2009 estimated that the annual airport bird strike total stood at about 7,000 incidents and that was just in the US. In around 15 per cent of these events, subsequent aircraft damage occurred. The infamous Hudson River landing took place when the Airbus airliner involved passed through a flock of birds and illustrated, quite graphically, the dangers involved.
Three months ago, Avanex was awarded the prestigious Australasian DuPont Innovation Award for Performance Materials. In a press release published to highlight this achievement, Cameron Henley from PGG Wrightson Turf - the company responsible for Avanex' commercial expansion - described it as a "...remarkable international accolade for a technology developed in New Zealand by AgResearch, holding potentially significant safety benefits for airports and sports facilities worldwide."
"We are proud to be a part of the development of this exciting technology and to bring Avanex to the market", he added.