Germany tries AI to protect endangered eagles from turbines • The Register

The federal government hopes that AI-supported cameras will protect endangered eagles from falling into wind turbines.

As Moscow squeezes gas supplies to Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz reckons the construction of more and more wind turbines — along with reactivated coal and oil-fired power plants — will help his country wean itself off of Russian fossil fuels by easing any shortages balanced in the energy supply.

However, conservationists are concerned that the turbines could harm wildlife. Scholz’s coalition government has controversially scrapped restrictions preventing the construction of wind turbines near bird nesting sites and advocates the rollout of machine learning technologies that could help protect rare birds of prey like the lesser spotted eagle from flying into turbine blades .

If all goes according to plan, cameras from US startup IdentiFlight will be rolled out over the next few weeks to keep an eye out for eagles flying near the German coast, The Guardian first reported. Skills to detect the lesser spotted eagles are planned to be deployed in 2023.

Will it work at all? Very good question.

IdentiFlight technology has been installed in over 150 wind farms in North America, Australia and Europe. A set of eight wide-field cameras sit on a tower and feed images into software that’s trained to recognize and classify specific protected bird species in the images. When the algorithms predict a bird will fly into a spinning wind turbine, the arms will slow down in seconds to reduce the risk of a fatal collision. The system has a range of 1 km (0.6 miles), we’re told.

Estimates of how many birds are killed by wind turbines in America each year range from hundreds of thousands of birds to millions. Wind farm operators do not care about the protection of all bird species and only pay attention to the most endangered species that are protected by environmental laws.

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ESI Energy earlier this year pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, admitting that at least 150 bald and golden eagles had died in 50 of its 154 wind turbines across America since 2012.

IdentiFlight uses a mix of computer vision techniques and convolutional neural networks to detect protected bird life. The number of birds saved each year depends on the location of the wind farm; Some may be located near migratory paths of certain species or near nesting sites. In Europe, IdentiFlight operates around five to six models to track different bird species.

The company declined to discuss costs with us — like, for example, is this stuff actually effective enough to be worth the money — citing a previous study that estimated its technology reduced eagle deaths by 82 percent reduced.

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“IdentiFlight was established to facilitate the development and operation of the wind energy business by promoting the successful coexistence of birdlife and wind energy,” said a representative The registry.

“IdentiFlight can ease the pressure on wind farm developers and operators by providing a sophisticated tool for detecting protected bird species and also providing operators with an effective means to protect selected species from collisions with rotating wind turbine blades.

“IdentiFlight’s mission is to drive renewable energy growth by minimizing the impact on wildlife while maximizing energy production. By empowering wind farm operators with highly targeted, informed and objective cutting decisions, unnecessary and costly disruption is avoided and conservation of protected species is achieved.” ®

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