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: How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Goshawk hunt and prey-evasion strategies revealed

Jan 21, 2015

Stealth is the goshawk's greatest asset. Plummeting out of the air, the raptors fix their gaze on the oblivious victim below. Intrigued by the birds' attack tactics, Suzanne Amador Kane from Haverford College, USA, decided ...

Weight riddle solved by Stanford bird wing test

Jan 14, 2015

A new instrument may help to carry out tests to optimize miniature drones, in attempts to assess their flight performance more precisely. A team from Stanford University have shown how flapping wings enable ...

What quails can teach us about the gait of dinosaurs

Dec 09, 2014

Motion scientists and zoologists of Jena University (Germany) study out the gait of birds. In the Proceedings of the Royal Society B the team published the first detailed analysis of the bipedal gait of qua ...

Hummingbird's hover surprisingly easy to hack

Dec 08, 2014

Hummingbirds' remarkable ability to hover in place is highly contingent on the tiny bird having a completely stationary visual field, according to University of British Columbia research published in the ...

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

Predicting human crowds with statistical physics

23 hours ago

For the first time researchers have directly measured a general law of how pedestrians interact in a crowd. This law can be used to create realistic crowds in virtual reality games and to make public spaces safer.

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

Broken windows thesis springs a leak

Feb 27, 2015

The broken windows theory posits that minor misdemeanors, like littering or graffiti spraying, stimulate more serious anti-social behavior. LMU sociologists now argue that the idea is flawed and does not ...

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.