In an airfield far, far away (well, Scotland, to be specific), officials are testing out some Star Wars-inspired tech to help keep away unwanted birds.

Developed in the Netherlands, the Aerolaser is a £8,000 (about $12,000 USD) hand-held gadget capable of firing off a beam of light that stretches for about two kilometres (think lightsaber-blaster fusion, but without the iconic sound or the ability to remove limbs).

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“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (This is what bird-deterring 'laser swords' look like in our heads). Yoda image © JD Hancock; Golden eagle image: Tony Hisgett
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This is what the Aerolaser actually looks like in operation ... Image: Dundee Airport

Bird strikes are a serious concern for pilots and it’s hoped that the lightsaber-like tool will help keep avian adversaries out of the flightpath. “Lasers have been found to be a very effective way of dispersing birds as they see the beam as a perceived threat and will fly away from it,” says Andrew Lindsay, Fire Manager at the Dundee Airport where the technology is currently being trialled.

If effective, the Aerolaser could be a big help to the birds as well. Over 450 different species have been known to collide with our metal flying machines, and there's particular concern for those birds that are already facing other threats. 

In the past, pyrotechnic bangers have been used to scare off birds; however the loud noise can be unpleasant for those living in nearby residential areas (and for the birds, obviously). The Aerolaser is entirely silent and is so far “proving very effective at deterring birds in a safe and humane manner,” according to Lindsay.

Over in the US, scientists are busy testing similar tech to see if it can be used to stop ravens from chowing down on threatened desert tortoises. There, like at Dundee Airport, keeping the lasers out of pilots' eyes (which could lead to an Endor-style crash) is an important part of the puzzle.

"It does have something of the look of Star Wars about it, but it obviously has a serious purpose – to keep the airfield clear of birds and thus ensure the safety of aircraft,” says Lindsay.

A two-month trial is now underway, with staff being trained in safe operation. The tech only comes in green, so any Sith lords out there with a passion for bird conservation will have to wait.

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"The force is strong with this one." Image: Dundee Airport

A little more on the Aerolaser: