Automated bird detection with the VARS camera system

The potential danger to flying birds from the operation of wind turbines makes continuous recording in the immediate rotor area necessary for risk assessment. Since many bird species migrate at night, this must also be possible in the dark.

Against this background, IfAÖ developed the VARS (Visual Automatic Recording System) camera system as part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). It is an around the clock infrared-sensitive camera system for automatic recording of flying birds. Powerful infrared illumination ensures reliable registration of birds and bats even in the dark.

Using special image analysis software, a video sequence is recorded when one or more objects with defined characteristics move through the image frame. In a further step, the objects can be identified and various behavioral parameters registered. A specially developed procedure enables low data volume per recorded flight event.

The camera system has been used for many years on the research platforms "FINO 1" and "FINO 2" in the offshore area of the German North Sea and Baltic Sea as well as on a wind turbine in the wind farm "alpha ventus".

When VARS is used on the nacelle of wind turbines, collision rates of birds can be calculated. In this context, the use of VARS in several offshore wind farms has been commissioned by the permitting authorities as part of an operational risk management program.


Wiss. Mitarbeiter, Dr.
Axel Schulz

T +49 381 252312-11
E schulz(at)