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: Apartment dwellers more likely to fear crime in their neighbourhood but feel safer at home than those in detached homes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Student designs drone to study starlings

Mar 27, 2014

(Phys.org) —Like something out of a science fiction movie, Scott Davis's remote controlled "octocopter" hovers above the ground and then soars over treetops, attracting the attention of onlookers who glance ...

Cuckoos stay on course

Jan 14, 2014

With short hectic wing strokes that are hardly raised above the body, the flight of the cuckoo is not the height of elegance. Nevertheless, their wings carry them over 16,000 kilometres a year. Martin Wikelski ...

A new, flying jellyfish-like machine (w/ Video)

Nov 24, 2013

Up, up in the sky: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... jellyfish? That's what researchers have built—a small vehicle whose flying motion resembles the movements of those boneless, pulsating, water-dwelling creatures.

Recommended for you

Narcissistic CEOs and financial performance

13 hours ago

Narcissism, considered by some as the "dark side of the executive personality," may actually be a good thing when it comes to certain financial measures, with companies led by narcissistic CEOs outperforming those helmed ...

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

13 hours ago

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

User comments : 0