How hummingbirds fight the wind: Robotic device helps analyze hovering birds

Nov 21, 2010
In the presence of a strong gust (30 percent from left to right), both leading and trailing edge vortices were observed during downstroke at a Reynolds number of 1400 (Strouhal number = 0.28). Credit: Courtesy: New Mexico State University.

Hummingbirds rank among the world's largest and most accomplished hovering animals, but how do they manage it in gusty winds?

A team of researchers at New Mexico State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, and Continuum Dynamics Inc. has built a robotic hummingbird wing to discover the answer, which they describe today at the American Physical Society Division of (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA

do not fly like other birds, whose wings flap up and down, explained B.J. Balakumar of the Extreme Fluids Lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Instead, their wings oscillate in a figure eight pattern to produce lift on both the downstroke and upstroke. They achieve the extra lift they need to hover by creating a vortex on the leading edges of their wings.

Such are inherently unstable. "The birds, though, are very clever," Balakumar said. "Their wings create the vortex with a high angle of attack on the downstroke. Then they flip their around on the upstroke, so as they shed one vortex, they create another on the other side of the wing, thereby managing to maintain high lift forces."

A gust of wind could pull those vortices off the wing. Instead, hummingbirds continually readjust their wing angles to maintain high lift forces.

The researchers' robotic wing will attempt to replicate that feat in gusty conditions. They hope to identify robust algorithms that will allow the creation of stable ornithopters that can operate reliably under real-life conditions for surveillance and other applications.

Explore further: Hide and seek: Sterile neutrinos remain elusive

More information: The presentation, "Effect of gust on flow patterns around a robotic hummingbird wing" is on Sunday, November 21, 2010. Abstract: meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD10/Event/132368

Provided by American Institute of Physics

4.8 /5 (8 votes)

Related Stories

Hummingbird flight an evolutionary marvel

Jun 22, 2005

Humans with an appreciation of beauty may have marveled for millennia at the artistry of a darting hummingbird, but scientists announced today that for the first time they can more fully explain how a hummingbird ...

Cyclogyro Flying Robot Improves its Angles of Attack

Jan 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the past few decades, researchers have been investigating a variety of flying machines. Most studies have focused on improving the flying performance of standard flying mechanisms, rather ...

Micro flying robots can fly more effectively than flies

Aug 01, 2009

There is a long held belief among engineers and biologists that micro flying robots that fly like airplanes and helicopters consume much more energy than micro robots that fly like flies. A new study now shows ...

Recommended for you

Hide and seek: Sterile neutrinos remain elusive

17 hours ago

The Daya Bay Collaboration, an international group of scientists studying the subtle transformations of subatomic particles called neutrinos, is publishing its first results on the search for a so-called ...

Novel approach to magnetic measurements atom-by-atom

21 hours ago

Having the possibility to measure magnetic properties of materials at atomic precision is one of the important goals of today's experimental physics. Such measurement technique would give engineers and physicists an ultimate ...

Scientists demonstrate Stokes drift principle

Oct 01, 2014

In nature, waves – such as those in the ocean – begin as local oscillations in the water that spread out, ripple fashion, from their point of origin. But fans of Star Trek will recall a different sort of wave pattern: ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

pnefdt23
not rated yet Nov 23, 2010
Sounds exactly like the same thing we humans do when we're in a swimming pool & we're trying to stay afloat I'd say the process is quite simple but genius at the same time.