NEWS

Ex-oilpatch Engineers Launch Bird Saving Bot

I’m a bit of a bird nerd. Alberta is home to a great variety of birds who live here year-round and a favorite rest stop for amazing migratory birds. With a three meter wingspan and signature call, an iconic visitor is the trumpeter swan. It’s the rarest and largest swan in the world. Recovery from the brink of extinction is a real success story in Alberta, but swans and other waterfowl risk deadly collisions with high voltage power lines. It’s hard to quantify but US Fish and Wildlife estimates up to 57 million birds per year die from hitting power lines.

 

A Calgary innovation is changing that. The new LineFly aerial robot is designed and engineered in Calgary by former oilpatch engineers. It saves birds by installing highly visible markers so birds can see and avoid power lines. It also reduces risk for people. Installers stay a safe distance from high voltage lines via remote operation. Before LineFly, markers were installed by hand from a helicopter or a bucket truck which is very expensive and hazardous for installers.

 

The team behind LineFly says their motivation was “driven by the need to reduce the costs, safety risks and time associated with the installation of bird flight diverters, which in turn will result in an increase in the number of spans marked, and thereby reducing the number of bird deaths and injuries caused by power lines. This will ultimately make our power grids much safer for migratory birds.”

LineFly is an immediate solution giving birds a fighting chance to avoid these deadly collisions. This homegrown innovation took flight in March. “Our first customer to adopt the use of the LineFly as an installation method was AltaLink, the largest electrical transmission company in Alberta.” In 2021, AltaLink will install approximately 8,000 markers. LineFly, by Fulcrum Air, has customers in the US and interest from several South American countries. Precise numbers are difficult when it comes to the number of bird lives saved but according to the LineFly team “scientific studies have shown that collisions can be reduced by between 50% and 90% with the use of these devices.” Fly well avian friends!

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