Winging it – bird watching with a difference

April 3, 2006

If you enjoy wildlife programmes then you'll probably have seen bird's-eye view footage of flying, taken from cameras attached to birds. A research group from the University of Oxford has gone one step further: by attaching a compact motion measurement unit in addition to cameras they hope to glean novel information on what it is that makes birds aeronautical experts.

Their results could help in designing wing-morphing aircraft that would have deformable wing and tail parts, in place of conventional trailing-edge flaps. Dr Graham Taylor has been testing the system in Denmark on a trained Steppe Eagle and will introduce the technique on Monday 3rd April at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Main Meeting in Canterbury.

Using this technique allows the researchers to study the flight mechanisms of free-flying birds, which apart from being more informative offers an ethical means of bird flight analysis. Several cameras are mounted on the bird's back or belly and point at the wings, head and tail.

The motion measurement unit weighs less than 50g and provides complete 3-dimensional information on the orientation, rotation and acceleration of the Eagle. The research group want to fit their motion measurements to dynamical models of bird flight to allow them to work out how the Eagle's control system functions.

Recent trials in Denmark have proved successful. "We can measure tail spread, pitch angle and bank angle from the onboard video directly", says Taylor. "The plan is to relate these measurable control inputs to the body motion of the bird, which we can quantify using the motion measurement unit."

Source: Society for Experimental Biology

Explore further: Human and avian running on uneven ground

Related Stories

Human and avian running on uneven ground

September 29, 2016

Together with colleagues, Dr Roy Müller from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) has published a review article in the current issue of the Journal of the Royal Society Interface analyzing human and avian locomotion ...

Bat flight generates complex aerodynamic tracks

May 10, 2007

Bats generate a measurably distinct aerodynamic footprint to achieve lift and maneuverability, quite unlike birds and contrary to many of the assumptions that aerodynamicists have used to model animal flight, according to ...

Recommended for you

Close up of the new mineral merelaniite

October 28, 2016

A team led by a physicist from Michigan Technological University has discovered a new mineral, named for the region in Tanzania where it comes from.

Making energy-harvesting computers reliable

October 28, 2016

A revolutionary and emerging class of energy-harvesting computer systems require neither a battery nor a power outlet to operate, instead operating by harvesting energy from their environment. While radio waves, solar energy, ...

133 million-year-old dinosaur brain fossil found in England

October 28, 2016

Soft tissues such as hearts and muscles are very rarely preserved in the fossil record. For that reason, nearly all study of dinosaur soft tissue has to be reconstructed from fossil bones. However, researchers in the United ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.