Robo-Dog Patrol: Alaska Airport’s High-Tech Solution Against Wildlife on Runway

Key Takeaways

  • Alaska's Fairbanks airport employs Aurora, a robotic dog, to safely deter wildlife.
  • Aurora, costing $70,000 and developed by Boston Dynamics, simulates predator behavior to protect airport runways.
  • Despite its high-tech approach, critics question Aurora's effectiveness compared to traditional wildlife management methods.

Alaska has confirmed the introduction of a headless robotic dog to stave off the presence of wildlife at its second-largest airport. 

The robot deterrent, roughly the same size as a labrador retriever, will be camouflaged as a coyote or fox “to enhance and augment safety and operations” at Fairbanks airport.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has named the new robot Aurora. It will imitate predator-like movements to prevent birds and other animals from getting too close to the runways and areas of active operations.

Aurora was developed by Boston Dynamics and introduced to the public in a short video on Instagram. State and wildlife biologists from the US Department of Agriculture collaborated on the project. The cost is said to have been around $70,000, funded as part of a $2 million federal grant.

Starting this fall, the robot dog will be deployed outdoors near the runway every hour to deter encounters between aircraft and wildlife, particularly waterfowl, according to Ryan Marlow, a program manager with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

“The sole purpose of this is to act as a predator and allow for us to invoke that response in wildlife without having to use other means,” Marlow told a joint session of the Alaska House and Senate transportation committees.

Aurora will also test how larger creatures, such as moose and bears, respond to a robot on patrol.

However, some aren’t convinced.

On X, user @alaskacryptogi1 stated, “Why? When it’s not broken, why try to fix it? A shotgun shot into the air is what we do in my town. It chases moose off the runway. This is ridiculous. They will think it’s a dog.”

Another user agreed, stating, “The moose will chase it and stomp on it. It will backfire.”

@MrSmo7 opined, “Seems like a waste of money. Suddenly we need a robot dog to keep wildlife out?”