Albatross 'dynamic soaring' achieved by repeated curve-altitude oscillation

September 5, 2012
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) in flight, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia. Credit: Wikipedia.

Albatrosses leverage the energy of the wind to fly with essentially no mechanical cost to themselves, very rarely flapping their wings, and new work published Sep. 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE offers insight into how exactly they accomplish this feat.

The researchers, led by Gottfried Sachs of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and Francesco Bonadonna of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), used advanced GPS tracking to determine that the energy gain during the albatross's "dynamic soaring" comes from a repeated consisting of a combined curve-altitude flight maneuver, with optimal adjustment for the wind.

The results may provide inspiration for robotic aircraft that utilize the flight technique of albatrosses for engineless propulsion, the authors write.

Explore further: Albatross camera reveals fascinating feeding interaction with killer whale

More information: Sachs G, Traugott J, Nesterova AP, Dell'Omo G, Ku¨mmeth F, et al. (2012) Flying at No Mechanical Energy Cost: Disclosing the Secret of Wandering Albatrosses. PLOS ONE 7(9): e41449. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041449

Related Stories

Birds: Soaring is better than flapping

December 8, 2010

Large birds, such as storks, save energy on the flight to their wintering grounds by soaring through the air on thermal currents. Until now, however, we knew nothing about the flight patterns of small migrating songbirds, ...

On the sizeable wings of albatrosses

March 17, 2011

( -- An oceanographer may be offering the best explanation yet of one of the great mysteries of flight--how albatrosses fly such vast distances, even around the world, almost without flapping their wings. The ...

New models may reduce seabird bycatch

April 4, 2011

Tens of thousands of albatrosses and other far-ranging seabirds are killed each year after they become caught in longline fishing gear. Innovative new models developed by a Duke University-led research team may help reduce ...

Largest bird alters its foraging due to climate change

January 12, 2012

Paris/ Leipzig. Wandering albatrosses have altered their foraging due to changes in wind fields in the southern hemisphere during the last decades. Since winds have increased in intensity and moved to the south, the flight ...

Flapping protective wings increase lift

May 29, 2012

New research from Lund University in Sweden reveals the value of carrying two layers of wings around. The researchers studied dung beetles and the way their protective forewings actually function. These wings do not only ...

Recommended for you

ZomBee Watch helps scientists track honeybee killer

October 9, 2015

While scientists have documented cases of tiny flies infesting honeybees, causing the bees to lurch and stagger around like zombies before they die, researchers don't know the scope of the problem.

Gene editing: Research spurs debate over promise vs. ethics

October 9, 2015

The hottest tool in biology has scientists using words like revolutionary as they describe the long-term potential: wiping out certain mosquitoes that carry malaria, treating genetic diseases like sickle-cell, preventing ...


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.