The USDA reports bird strikes cost $1.2 billion dollars in damage per year around the globe. 

“You end up with some serious damage to the aircraft — to the landing gear,” said Airport Operations Duty Manager Chris Ursey, “For example, you get a fox or a deer; you can imagine what kind of damage that’s going to do at 150 miles an hour.”

Reagan National Airport, surrounded by water on three sides, is often inhabited by migratory birds. The airport keeps them at bay with its 12 bird cannons. 

“Everybody’s heard the story of the ‘miracle on the Hudson,'” said Ursey, “The flock of geese that flew into the engine. And that’s what we’re trying to keep from happening.”

The rotating, solar powered contraptions keep birds away from airborne planes by scaring them off. Last month, the cannons got a face lift — they can be manually set off, sometimes in groups, releasing compressed gas every eight to 12 seconds.

Reagan National collaborates with USDA to scare off birds humanely. The USDA works with the airport to capture endangered birds and relocate them to a safe place, away from the runway.