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Boston airport tests radar to avoid bird strikes

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A Merlin system is already being used at Durban International Airport in South Africa, the first commercial airport to install avian radar technology. But cost and technical concerns have limited the spread of it and competing technology.

A second Merlin system sits atop a bird-attracting landfill near a runway at the Louisville, Ky., airport, while a system made by a Canadian competitor, Accipiter Radar Technologies Inc., has been installed at Sea-Tac Airport outside Seattle.

Such systems can be automated to alert air traffic controllers of birds entering landing and takeoff corridors, so specific altitudes and travel directions can be relayed to pilots.

They also can archive bird activity, so biologists can analyze it and better predict when to use their low-tech countermeasures such as dogs, sirens or air cannons.

"Wouldn't it be great if we had some technology to tell us what's over the horizon?" said David Ishihara, director of aviation operations for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan.

Experts said the challenge is adapting technology designed to track bigger, slower-moving targets such as ships so it can detect faster, biological targets like birds.

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