Case Study: Roadside Wildlife Warning System

Project and Challenges

Rotalec was engaged to provide a customized, innovative solution to detect wildlife nearing the highway and warn oncoming traffic.

Each year, North America experiences over 1,000,000 wildlife/vehicle crashes, which result in an estimated $1.2 billion in property damage and over 100 fatalities. Rotalec partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to develop and install a solution to either deter wildlife or warn oncoming traffic when wildlife was near.

The Ministry faced the following challenges:

  • Past Wildlife Deterrents Had Been Ineffective and/or Too Expensive:

Past efforts to solve this problem had not been effective, including bumper-mounted whistles, elevated animal crossing bridges/tunnels, fencing, and reflectors on the roadside, to name a few.

  • Difficulty of Changing the Behaviour of Wildlife:

It is difficult to create a solution that will result in a significant change in the migration and/or feeding patterns of the wildlife in order to keep them away from the roads.

  • Environmental and Sensing Challenges

Previous detection and warning systems struggled with environmental issues such as fog, snow, or hilly landscapes. Further, sensors must be able to differentiate between the designated types of animals and not indicate animal presence for those which do not pose a threat for transportation safety.

We're looking at applications across Canada, not just in Ontario and we think the time is right considering the government's approach to infrastructure. There are at least 100 places where this could be used, so there is a great deal of potential. It's the sort of thing that can save lives and protect animals.

– Blake Dickson, VP Sales & Marketing

Rotalec's Solution

Rotalec developed an innovative Wildlife Warning System (WWS) to alert motorists when wildlife was near the roadway.

We designed and installed solar-powered systems that used warning signs and flashing lights to alert motorists to the movement of animals approaching the roadside.

Wildlife Warning System (WWS) tInfrared Sensors / Navtech Radar Technology

We designed the first WWS using IR sensors. As large wildlife approached an equipped roadway, they “broke” the double beam of the installed sensors, and triggered the warning lights to notify drivers in the area. To help eliminate false warnings, the IR sensors were set at specific heights so that, when both beams broke simultaneously and for a predetermined amount of time, it would confirm the presence of destructive wildlife and not smaller animals.

A few years later, we installed our new system using Navtech Radar Technology instead of IR beams. The Navtech sensor is less sensitive to weather such as fog, rain, heavy snow, etc. In addition, the Navtech software allows for tracking of an animal as long as it remains on the roadway platform, not just as it is leaving the bush. Because of this, the system tracks not only items that are moving on the roadway platform, but also monitors stationary items on the platform that could be a possible hazard for drivers.

case study wildlife warning systemWarning Signs

Once wildlife has been sensed and confirmed to be within the detection zone, the system is set to wirelessly alert multiple warning signs along the roadway. This system turns on the warning beacons within 1 second of detection, to signs a distance of up to 1 km away.

Having determined optimal placement of the sensors 10-15m from the side of the road, the time from animal approach to vehicle presence creates a true warning system, allowing motorists the time and distance to slow down before wildlife can reach their location on the roadway, effectively preventing collision.

Wireless Communications and Solar Power Wireless Communications and Solar Power

The system is designed with wireless communications and solar power in order to minimize hassle and maintenance. This is ideal for installations in isolated locations that are most likely to experience high incidence of large animal collisions with vehicles.

With a long range wireless network, the need for wiring between signs and detectors is eliminated. The detectors and signs communicate for distances up to 1 km, with little interference from hills and corners.

Smart wireless devices allow for any detector to activate any of the warning signals for a user-defined period of time.

Gateway for Remote Access and Monitoring

The Ministry of Transportation is able to connect to the system from anywhere, including their offices. This allows for ongoing monitoring of the system and roadways to ensure it is continually active and working correctly.

The Result

Drivers are alerted to the presence of wildlife on or near the road and slow down, avoiding collisions with wildlife where the WWS is installed.

case study wildlife warning systemKey Benefits of the Technology:

  • Changes the behaviour of drivers, not wildlife.
  • Little to no annual maintenance depending upon conditions.
  • Reduction in wildlife/vehicle crashes in deployment zones.
  • All hardware is low-cost and off-the-shelf.
  • No external controllers, power supply, or computers involved.
  • Easy to install additional detectors and signs to existing system.
  • Easily add motion sensors, cameras and other devices to system.
  • Gateway for remote access and monitoring from any desktop.
  • Detects the targeted wildlife and not the smaller animals.
  • Can distinguish between cars, other moving objects, and deer to prevent false alarms.
  • Resists interference from environmental conditions such as fog, snow, or hills.

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