Bird Radar Brings Jobs to Panama City

PANAMA CITY -- Ron Merritt and two friends started detect 10 years ago, with 8 employees. The company now has more than 40-workers in high paying jobs.

"Anytime an airport or an airbase has a catastrophic bird strike, with a stork, or an eagle, or any bird on the coast, the first thing they want to do is know what technology is best to reduce that probability. Really the best way is to use radar systems, and we are a world leader in doing that. We provide this radar for the US air force," said Merritt.

Detect's radars monitor bird migrations, information that air traffic controllers and managers can use to avoid flocks.

Merritt says a 5 pound bird can do as much damage to a jet as a flying bowling ball.

"I mean the impact energy is so great, you can't build parts strong enough to withstand that kind of strike. You just hit a cannon shell, and it will take the aircraft out," said Merritt.

Since contracting with detect 10 years ago, the air force's bird strikes have fallen by 50%. Detect is now working on a system for Saudi Arabia.

"What's the best available tool. They try to buy our fighters. They want all our aircraft, so they are going to look to see what we are using to minimize damage," said Merritt.