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Of the many military projects conducted by ABE, those involving birds were among the most intriguing. 

Birds were used to save lives, as shown in the Rescue Birds page, but they were also used for reconnaissance and espionage.  ABE used pigeons, ravens, and crows for this work.  For example, birds were taught to deliver or pick up packages from windowsills or similar locations.  They were directed to the appropriate location with a laser pointer.  ABE was among the first company to use large laser pointers as they became available.  Today, a key feature of Robert Bailey’s workshops is teaching chickens to follow a target in the form of a red-dot delivered by a laser-pointer. 

Other projects involved teaching ravens standing on exterior building ledges to take pictures of the interior rooms of the building.  The raven would carry in its mouth a small camera that was triggered whenever the camera was pushed against the window pane.  The exact location of this window was also indicated to the bird with a laser pointer.

In another body of work, pigeons were trained to detect ambushes and snipers hiding along well-traveled roads.  This work was conducted during the Vietnam era.  The bird was launched from a transport vehicle and flew ahead on the road.  Attached to the bird was a device that continued to send a radio signal back to the vehicle as long as the bird was flying.  If the bird detected a sniper on the side of the road, the bird would alight nearby.  This would turn off the radio signal traveling back to the transport vehicle and indicate to the person monitoring the radio signal that the bird had stopped flying and probably had detected a person hiding on the side of the road.  These demonstrations were remarkable in that they indicated that these birds could accurately discriminate persons from the surrounding environment even when these persons were well-hidden in the underbrush.  Further, these birds could discriminate persons lying in wait from ordinary citizens walking along the road, which might be the situation in an environment like Vietnam.

Photo Gallery (click on each photo to enlarge)


Video Clips

Pigeon in laser guidance training

[Fast DL: 865KB]
Real-environment laser training [Fast DL: 973KB]
Raven-spy trains with camera [Fast DL: 1.2MB]
Long-distance raven training [Fast DL: 1.2MB]