Using Doppler Radar to Track Avian Flu-Infected Waterfowl

January 6, 2017 01:26 PM
 
 

Doppler radar technology, which is used to predict rain or storms, is now being used by researchers to track migratory waterfowl in real time to try to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

The goal is to monitor the birds’ patterns and notify USDA and producers if waterfowl are near and could be carrying a devastating disease.

The avian influenza outbreak killed more than 48 million birds from 2014 to 2015. Researchers with the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are trying to reduce the risk of another outbreak.

“They can not only monitor birds, but density of birds and number of birds, which means the number of birds in a cubic kilometer of airspace,” said Maurice Pitesky, an extension poultry specialist with the University of California. “They can also monitor the direction and speed of the birds.”

Researchers like Pitesky are using radars, one of them is NEXRAD, a type of Doppler weather radar operated by the National Weather Service.

A radar beam is used to detect bird movements in the air like it would with raindrops.

“If we get a really intense signal, that reflects anywhere from 1,000 birds per cubic kilometer, and if we get a weak signal, we can detect down to 60 or 70 birds per cubic kilometer of airspace,” said Pitesky.

Pitesky hopes he can develop the technology and release it on a monthly or even weekly basis online. Then, he hopes to focus on how AI is getting into commercial poultry facilities.

Watch how the Doppler radar works on tracking waterfowl on AgDay above. 

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