By Ken Hegan for MSN Travel

Remember in 2009 when a U.S. Airways passenger jet crash-landed into the Hudson River off of midtown Manhattan? You’d definitely remember if you were on that flight.

The captain, Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, had to down the jet soon after it slammed into a flock of Canadian geese. Both of Sully’s engines failed. So he had to belly flop the plane on the river. No word on the total number of bird fatalities but fortunately all 155 crew and passengers survived.

Sure, the airline could blame Canada. But instead, airports point their fingers at the feathered terrorists (both domestic and foreign) for causing dangerous ‘bird strikes’, also known as ‘BASH’, which is short for Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard.

Airplane birds

Birds swarm Pope Benedict’s plane (they almost killed Benny!) AP Photo/Gero Breloer 2011

Bird strikes are serious business, and not just for the poor birds. A 2001 joint U.S./Canadian study found that the annual cost of bird strikes to worldwide commercial aviation is $1.28 billion (USD) in damages and flight delays. That’s a lot of ruffled feathers.

Airports use a variety of methods to scare birds away from flight paths. At my local airport, YVR in Vancouver, the wildlife technicians drive off and harass between 800,000 and a million birds each year. They also use dogs and falcons to spook the birds. Here’s a video that explains how they do it.

Now South Korean engineers are scaring birds with Laser Robot Scarecrow Tanks. That’s right: Laser Robot Scarecrow Tanks. Man, even just thinking a phrase like that strikes terror in my heart, and I’m not even one of their targets.

Apparently the Korean Atomic Energy Group and an LG subsidiary have conspired on this project for years…AND WHAT A PROJECT IT IS.

Laser Robot Scarecrow Tanks!


Armed with lasers and acoustic weapons, these unmanned, 6-wheeled tanks are now roaring onto a number of Korean runways. According to Gizmodo, they scare the l’il pants off of beaked trespassers by blasting them with 100 decibel popping noises and “frenetic laser patterns.” [If I was in charge, I’d call this project ‘Smack Hawk Down’.]

This 8-feet-long robotic tank — which the Koreans swear will be remotely controlled by humans — looks like some madman chopped a mutant Hummer and then slapped a 1-ton space station on the roof. It looks a lot like the nasty, post-apocalyptic vehicles that chased Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior. See what the tanks look like in this Slate video.

The tanks can avoid obstacles on their own, and travel to and from the runway all by themselves. It’s certainly nicer than shooting the birds, or gassing the geese which New York officials recently did near JFK. Compared to these, and other bird-control methods, the tank is supposedly 20% more effective at scaring birds away from downing your plane.

In other words: awesome. I’ll take two. One for the front of my house, to scare my idiot neighbours away from backing their Chevy into my new MINI. Plus I’d have another Laser Robot Scarecrow Tank out back to chase vampires away. Birds are pesky, but you should never scrimp on vampire control.

What do you think…would you like your flights to be protected by Laser Robot Scarecrow Tanks?

— Ken Hegan

Bing: is your airport at risk of bird strikes?

Read all Ken’s travel stories here and follow him on Twitter: @KenHegan