Alaskan wildlife near the Fairbanks Airport will soon have a new unlikely protector – a headless dog-like robot named Aurora designed to deter birds and other animals from dangerous airport runways.

Aurora was designed by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) and funded through a research grant. The department released a video showcasing the colorful robot climbing rocks and stairs, running across rugged terrain, and even doing a happy dance.

At the airport though, Aurora will be all-business, patrolling the runway every hour in hopes of preventing birds and other wildlife from settling in nearby. Aurora will also wear a special uniform – weatherproof, faux-fur panels to make the robot look more like a coyote or fox.

Alaskan airports can be dangerous places for wildlife to traverse. In 2023, 93 animals were struck near Alaskan airport runways, including 10 in Fairbanks according to the Federal Aviation Administration. In 1995, a jet crashed in Alaska after hitting a flock of geese, killing 24 people as well as birds. In 2020, a plane killed a brown bear that ran across the runway as the airplane was landing – leaving a two-year-old cub orphaned. Moose have also been known to wander close to airports and have at times forced airports to close runways.

Aurora’s effectiveness in scaring away larger animals, such as moose and grizzly bears, is yet unknown. However, the hope is Aurora will be a more effective and humane wildlife deterrent than other proposed strategies — such as wildlife service teams shooting paintball guns and drones spraying animal repellents — on airport runways.

Lady Freethinker applauds the Alaska DOTPF for their innovative thinking in creating wildlife-friendly strategies to keep animals away from hazardous airport runways.