Winging it – bird watching with a difference

Apr 03, 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: Mapping the world's linguistic diversity—scientists discover links between your genes and the language you speak

Related Stories

Autonomous Robird is one step closer

Jul 01, 2015

With the assistance of the European Space Agency ESA, robotics researchers at the University of Twente have taken an essential step toward the Robird's completely autonomous flight. This lifelike, robotic ...

Small bird fills big fossil gap

Jun 02, 2015

The 115-million-year-old remains of a tiny toothed bird with a two-pronged tail resembling a pair of darts have filled knowledge gaps about feather evolution, scientists reported Tuesday.

Tiny UAVs and hummingbirds are put to test

Jul 30, 2014

Hummingbirds in nature exhibit expert engineering skills, the only birds capable of sustained hovering. A team from the US, British Columbia, and the Netherlands have completed tests to learn more about the ...

Recommended for you

Lady, you're on the money

Jul 03, 2015

So far, women whose portraits appear on U.S. money have been a party of three. Excluding commemorative currency, only Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller appear on coins in general circulation, according ...

Old World monkey had tiny, complex brain

Jul 03, 2015

The brain hidden inside the oldest known Old World monkey skull has been visualized for the first time. The creature's tiny but remarkably wrinkled brain supports the idea that brain complexity can evolve ...

User comments : 0

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.