AI Bird Watcher
Solar energy! ‘Might be completely renewable and green and great for the planet, sure. It could also, however, be deadly — if you’re a bird.
But really: A 2016 study found that large solar farms in the US accounted for the death of almost 140,000 birds every year. For a while, we only had our best guess as to why solar farms were killing birds at such a scale — for instance, they may have mistaken the reflective panels as the surface of water.
These theories are far from confirmed. But we may soon know a lot more, courtesy of an artificial intelligence-powered birdwatcher, as Wired reports.
The thinking is that an algorithm can pick out avian behavior and analyze their flying patterns near solar panels. The Department of Energy recently signed a contract with Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to develop a tailor-made AI solution.
“The machine-learning research we’re doing is a little unique, because we don’t just want to classify an object in a single image,” Adam Szymanski is a software engineer at Argonne, who’s working on the system, told Wired.
“It has to classify a small, fast-moving object over time,” he added. “So if the bird is flying, in some frames you’ll see a dot and in others you’ll see its wings out, and we need to track that object as it moves across the camera.”
Perched on a Solar Panel
Ironically, the bird watcher will likely rely on solar panels on its own. Using and adapting a camera system designed to monitor pedestrians and cars, the team is planning to mount the bird watcher on top of a solar panel.
The goal? To eventually figure out how bird behavior changes around solar panels and ensure that birds are protected in the future.
READ MORE: Why Do Solar Farms Kill Birds? Call in the AI Bird Watcher [Wired]