PigeonBot Shows it Has the Wright Stuff

January 21, 2020

A small robot that looks, flies, and even has the feathers of a bird is giving new insight into the complexities of avian flight, whilst providing a glimpse into the future of aerospace engineering.

The robot – aptly named “PigeonBot” – was developed by scientists at Stanford University and mimics pigeons’ natural flight. PigeonBot has proven so lifelike and successful that it’s giving new potential into airborne travel.

David Lentink and his colleagues dedicated many research hours to understanding how birds fly, learning how their feathers interact with each other, and how they shift and change during flight. His team first analysed a pigeon cadaver, studying each wing.

They discovered that the birds can change the shape of their wings without the need to control the individual feathers, reducing the number of variables that could complicate flight.

They tested this discovery by building PigeonBot and simulating natural flight – which clocked in marginally slower than an average pigeon, but provided invaluable research data.

Lentink said: “Since the Wright brothers, aerospace engineers have tried to create wings that change shape, or morph, as well as birds can morph their wings … we let go of the idea that you have to control every degree of freedom, and I think future aircraft will benefit from this finding.”

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