Autonomous drones will seek and destroy bird nests near airfields.

Fight or Flight

The US Navy and a company called Hitron Technologies are developing a new autonomous killer drone designed specifically to seek and destroy the Navy's ultimate foe: birds.

The drones are a counterattack against the dangers of bird strikes at and around airfields, New Scientist reports, which can damage planes and have led to crashes and forced landings in the past. The drones, which are currently being tested in a lab while they await permits for field tests, will hunt out bird nests and spray eggs with an oil that prevents them from hatching.

Chemical Warfare

Coating eggs in oil essentially deprives the bird embryos of oxygen, killing them without physically destroying the eggs, which can motivate parent birds to lay more.

Oiling is considered a humane way of controlling bird populations by the Humane Society of the United States, according to New Scientist. But experts have called into question whether the autonomous drones could effectively oil an egg, which would need to be entirely coated — including the underside — in order for it to work.

"Egg oiling can cause welfare issues for the adult birds and, in addition, the oiling needs to be done carefully," Graham White, head of ecology at the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told New Scientist.

And, he adds, attacking these nests risks triggering all-out-war between bird and machine.

"Adult gulls would very likely attack the drone, risking themselves and the drone," White said.

READ MORE: US Navy is developing drones to exterminate birds' eggs near airfields [New Scientist]

More on bird strikes: Canadian Airport to Use Robotic Falcons to Stop Bird Strikes

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