Aircraft Birdstrike Avoidance Radar

Bird-aircraft strikes pose a significant safety hazard to aircraft, pilots and passengers and, according to government studies, cost military and commercial aviation over $2 billion each year due to aircraft loss and damage, out-of-service delays and lost lives.

The MERLIN System

DeTect’s MERLIN Aircraft Birdstrike Avoidance Radar system is the first production model bird strike radar system and is the most advanced and widely-used technology available for bird-aircraft strike hazard (BASH) management and for real-time detection, tracking and alerting of hazardous bird activity at commercial airports, military airfields, and military training and bombing ranges. The MERLIN avian radar is proven, operational technology with over 180 MERLIN systems currently operating at sites worldwide in aviation safety and environmental applications.

MERLIN has a documented record in reducing bird strikes, increasing safety and reducing aircraft damage and delay costs at both military and commercial airfields. MERLIN is also the only bird radar system to have been evaluated and certified for real-time, tactical flight safety use by the US government (NASA and the USAF) and is the only bird radar approved for and in use at a commercial airport control tower under national flight safety standards. The MERLIN technology includes a wide range of unique features and benefits not available with any other system:

  • Operational, production-model technology
  • Real-time display of bird activity with the highest available update rates
  • Precise, tactical, automated bird-aircraft strike risk alerts to controllers & pilots
  • Mobile, real-time information displays for airfield bird control units
  • Detects birds from ground level to above aircraft operational altitudes
  • Full 3D airspace coverage & data
  • State-of-the-art solid-state S-band Doppler radar technology
  • Reliable bird detection in up to moderate fog, rain & snow conditions
  • Military-grade bird detection tracking algorithms & clutter suppression
  • Real-time target filtering by size & mass for hazardous bird activity
  • Operating software developed specifically for detection & tracking of birds
  • Simultaneous multi-range operation to support both ATC & bird control
  • Multi-functional for simultaneous bird & drone detection
  • Full remote control and real-time information display to multiple users
  • SQL datasystem with automatic daily report generation engine
  • Complete design, installation, commissioning & long-term support
  • Comprehensive parts & labor warranty & performance guarantees

Expertise & Resources

With MERLIN, users get more than just a bird radar – each MERLIN system is supported by DeTect’s experts in military and commercial aviation safety, air traffic control, airfield management, airfield bird control and radar remote sensing to provide a cost-effective system that integrates seamlessly and effectively into airfield or airport operations.

The base model MERLIN system uses a dual vertical scanning and horizontal scanning surveillance radar configuration to provide simultaneous airspace coverage and display with dedicated scanning of critical runways and approach and departure corridors (where over 85% of airfield bird-aircraft strikes occur) from the ground level up to 15,000 ft AGL and 360 degrees around the airfield out to 8+ miles. The MERLIN 3D version provides full 3D target tracking and the MERLIN 3D+ model provides the highest level of bird strike risk alerting available on the market.

MERLIN systems are available in standard mobile and custom fixed skid unit installation configurations. For large, multi-runway airports and airfields, multiple fixed-mount sensor packages are installed around the airfield and networked to provide optimal 3D coverage of the airfield and the area around the airport with dedicated vertical scanning of each runway and into approach and departure corridors providing continuous risk alerting and delivering precise real-time information. Commercial airport installations can be delivered as fixed radar packages with frangible radar towers and electronics installed in compact, outdoor-rated, environmentally controlled NEMA-certified enclosures or with processing equipment remotely located at a central equipment room (up to 50 miles away). Power and network infrastructure is minimal and all components are fully remote controllable. MERLIN is scalable and expandable which allows users to install a base system initially, adding additional sensors overages as budgets allow to expand coverage. All components are industrial grade with high reliability and low maintenance costs.

Features & Advantages

In MERLIN, hazardous bird target positional information is delivered in real time to multiple local and remote users simultaneously in operationally usable formats with user-selectable display options that include color-coded symbols, unique identifiers for birds and aircraft, target trails and target tags with a range of attribute display options. DeTect’s unique MERLIN Advisor risk alerting software continuously monitors bird activity in the runway approach and departure corridors and around the airfield automatically determining the current birdstrike risk for each corridor with the risk displayed onto the screen in color-coded text (as LOW, MODERATE, or SEVERE risk levels) and risk condition color options (GREEN, YELLOW, RED) that can be interpreted and effectively used in the high tempo environment in control towers. Tower controllers, airfield managers and bird control staff are automatically alerted to real-time and expected changes in the risk condition by user-selectable, visual, audible and text message warning options. MERLIN Advisor is the only proven and operationally used automated bird strike risk monitoring and alerting system available on the market and represents the state-of-the-art in real time bird strike risk management for commercial airports and military airfields.

All target data attributes are also continuously written to the MERLIN SQL database system for playback, archiving and analysis with the Data Analyzer software that includes standard “point-and-click” queries. The integrated MERLIN Reporter feature automatically generates a set of custom or standard BASH management reports and emails them to users at the end of each 24 hour period. Data are also exportable to GIS and Google Earth for integration into customer resource and planning databases and for modeling and detailed analysis. MERLIN additionally includes an optional incident recorder module that retains 48-72 hours of full radar data to support event and mishap investigations.

Advantages of the MERLIN system include:

  • Automated real-time monitoring, warning & alerting of bird strike risk
  • User-selectable visual, audible & messaging risk alert options
  • Detection and tracking software developed specifically for birds & aviation safety
  • Largest 3-D airspace scan volume
  • Upgradable for simultaneous bird & drone surveillance
  • Fastest update rate
  • Most accurate x-y-z bird target positional information
  • Developed and supported by top BASH & aviation safety experts
  • Proven in airport, military airfield & training range installations worldwide
  • Fully remote viewable & controllable through LAN, WAN, Internet & wireless
  • Wide range of standard & custom functions & features
  • Widely used by the US Air Force, US Navy, NASA & major airports for real-time, tactical bird detection

The MERLIN bird radar operating software was specifically developed to detect and track the unique characteristics of bird targets and includes specialized ground clutter suppression to provide reliable, precise detection and tracking of birds from near ground level to above aircraft flight altitudes (85% of airport/airfield birdstrikes occur below 500 feet altitude). MERLIN also uses advanced solid-state Doppler S-band, 10-centimeter wavelength radar sensors engineered for bird detection that display and issue birdstrike alerts only for medium and larger size birds, including flocks, which minimizes false positives that can cause inaccurate strike risk advisories yet ensures that all target size risk classes are reliably detected.

Design & Engineering

MERLIN uses state-of-the-art solid-state S-band radar sensors with Doppler processing providing all weather detection and tracking of birds even in fog, rain and snow. The solid-state radars in MERLIN have been engineered and manufactured specifically for bird detection and offer greater sensitivity than traditional magnetron-based bird radar systems which are susceptible to false positives from insect contamination and are “blind” in wet fog or even light rain. Low visibility conditions such as wet fog and rain represent one of the highest risk period to aircraft as bird control units, controllers and pilots cannot “see” the birds and the birds cannot “see and avoid” the aircraft.

MERLIN is a fully integrated and engineered system that is manufactured by DeTect in its own factory and includes temperature and humidity controlled field technician equipment consoles/enclosures, radar data processors and software, radar towers, and military/AOA airfield lighting and marking. Mobile MERLIN systems are fully mission deployable via ground, ship or air transport for forward-base use and are air transport certified (USAF ATTLA). With the optional secondary surveillance radar (SSR) and multi-function HARRIER and DroneWatcher options, the MERLIN system can support military theater operations delivering simultaneous, real-time birdstrike risk management, drone and small UAV detection, and/or airspace and perimeter surveillance and intrusion alerting, all from a single, compact fully mobile, hardened and self-contained platform.

Expert Application Support

MERLIN is backed by the most experienced team of bird radar experts in the world. With MERLIN, users are getting more than an aircraft birdstrike avoidance radar system. DeTect provides comprehensive application support with each system delivery that includes custom engineering, turnkey installation, full concept-of-operations (CONOPS) development, system integration and site-specific operation training and long-term support. Each system is supported by DeTect’s team of application specialists who have extensive backgrounds and experience in radar systems, BASH management and airfield operations. Staff resources supporting each MERLIN deployment include a former Chief of the US Air Force BASH Team, a former Head of US Air Force Europe Bird Control, FAA Qualified Biologists, NTSB Trained Mishap Investigators, former USDA Airfield Wildlife Control Officers, and noted international experts in radar ornithology and BASH with experience gained on projects at over 300 airports and airfields worldwide. DeTect’s expert staff have been responsible for virtually every major development in bird radar technology for the past 30 years that includes the following bird radar industry “Firsts”:

  • Permanent bird radar system installation at a western European airport (2012)
  • Advanced user customizable infinite birdstrike risk zone alerting (2011)
  • Bird radar system with Doppler processing (2010)
  • Dynamic Trending functionality in automated birdstrike risk warning system (2009)
  • Active war zone deployment of a tactical bird strike radar (Afghanistan, 2009)
  • Custom bird radar ‘Bird Mode’ waveform & antenna (2009)
  • All weather solid-state bird radar system (2009)
  • Birdstrike risk alerts to a commercial airport tower (2008, Durban IAP, S. Africa)
  • Automated birdstrike risk alerting bird radar (2006, USAF, Dover AFB)
  • Bird radar system at commercial airport (2003, Augusta Regional Airport, Georgia)
  • On-airfield bird detection radar (2003, Royal Air Force Base, Kinloss Scotland)
  • Biological target detection algorithm for radar (2001)
  • Automatic vertical scanning radar for bird detection (2000)
  • National bird strike risk radar network (1999, AHAS, www.usahas.com, USAF)
  • Base-level Bird Avoidance Model (1997, USAF)
  • Computer-based birdstrike risk mission planning model (1996, USAF)
  • Year-round remote sensing studies of bird activity (1995, USAF)

MERLIN systems are available for sale, long-term lease or short-term rental, with or without DeTect operators and are backed by a full parts and labor warranty that covers the complete system. Since 2003, over 180 MERLIN bird radar systems have logged over 5 million hours of operating time with an established record of high system uptime, high reliability and low maintenance and repair costs.