Dover Air Force Base implements new bird radar system

By Airman 1st Class Zoe M. Wockenfuss
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — Team Dover installed the Merlin bird radar system June 8, 2018, at Dover AFB, Del. The system was implemented to provide members of the 436th Operations Support Squadron airfield management flight with data on bird migration, allowing them to track altitude, direction, flock size, date and time, in order to reduce damage to Dover aircraft.

The 436th OSS is currently testing the system for 30 to 60 days to calibrate the system to best meet the installation’s needs.

Dover is located in the Atlantic migratory flyway, and from September to April thousands of migrating birds use Dover as a stop-over zone. The surrounding agriculture and wildlife refuges attract the migratory birds en masse. Migratory bird activity increases about an hour prior to sunrise and an hour after sunset.

Across the Air Force bird strikes caused roughly $20,633,787 in damages during fiscal year 2016. With the help of the new bird radar system Dover hopes to reduce the risk of damages to aircraft and crews.

“The safety of our aircraft, and more importantly our personnel, necessitates that we employ assets to minimize that risk,” said Master Sgt. Philip Camp, 436th Airlift Wing safety superintendent. “Gaining access to real-time bird presence data in DAFB’s airspace could directly impact mission planning for departing and arriving aircraft.”

Aircraft are also at their highest level of vulnerability during takeoff and landing, especially in low visibility and night conditions. Bird strikes aren’t something that can be completely avoided but with the new radar system, Dover AFB has adds an additional advantage in its effort to prevent them. The machine provides useful tracking data as well as real-time bird information that allows a U.S. Department of Agriculture contractor or Airfield Management to accurately track bird activity and mitigate threat to aircraft.

“The upgraded radar allows the end user the ability to identify the size of birds,” Camp said. “The radar can isolate up to a 4-mile radius from DAFB, as well as scanning an altitude of up to 3,000 feet. The radar will also visually highlight areas surrounding the airfield that have the highest concentration of birds. This will enable more effective USDA wildlife removal and mitigation efforts.”

There is only one operational bird radar monitor in the Airfield Management office at this time , but in the near future, monitors will be installed in the Safety office and the USDA contractor office.

In addition to the radar system, the installation’s BASH program utilizes passive and active bird control measures to mitigate bird strike hazards, including grass height management, pest control, elimination of roosting sites, using pyrotechnics, depredation, dogs and bioacoustics.

“The system has been upgraded and will provide us altitude and heading as well as let us set perimeters for distance around the airfield,” said Bruce Williams, 436th OSS airfield manager.

“The system will let us compare the data over the past 24 hours to see if we have a trend. Overall with all the upgrades I believe this will be a very useful tool for the airfield to help keep our aircrews, passengers and aircraft safe.”

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