Robot got the plumage of the dove and now flies like a bird

Researchers years studying the physics of the flight of birds, to learn how to create the equally maneuverable aircraft.

Engineers from the laboratory of David Lentink at Stanford (Lentink Lab) decided to seek the assistance of pigeons, is able to easily change the trajectory, maneuver between buildings in cities, to dive and to perform other maneuvers.

aerobatics these and other birds do, by changing the shape of wings partially or completely. But aircraft do not have such opportunities.

So the researchers found a simple and elegant solution: they designed the robot, which can be supplemented with pigeon feathers.

First, David Lentink (David Lentink) together with colleagues examined the skeletons, wings and feathers of pigeons.

“in order to develop a robot, you can use the corpse of the bird (and the museums there are many) to explore its flight, without causing harm to any animal,” says the engineer in an interview with Gizmodo.

At this stage, the researchers found that for flight control, the birds will employ about 40 feathers, while the joints of the wrist and fingers provide precise control over the arrangement of feathers and wingspan.

Another important conclusion of scientists was that the microstructure of the feathers (especially the elements known as brodacki with hooks) ensures their engagement with each other, so the wing turns into a single surface. This affects the aerodynamic properties and reduces the need of control of individual feathers.

In the next phase, the team recreated the same mechanisms in unmanned aircraft, dubbed PigeonBot (“Dove-bot”).

Its body is composed of foam (the first prototypes were created of carbon fiber and fiberglass, but they eventually proved to be too heavy). The robot is also equipped with controllers, GPS and sensors for remote control.

the wings of robot engineers attached real feathers of pigeons.

PigeonBot with propeerom (located in front) and an artificial tail. Artificial “wrist” and “fingers” and a flexible “tendons” control the position of the feathers.

Add that to make the flapping motion, the robot is not able, he is able only to spread and folded wings.

Researchers can remotely control the wings and make the robot rotate, tilt or to perform another maneuver, simulating the flight of a dove.

Testing a new robot were in a wind tunnel, and then under the open sky. The average flight speed PigeonBot was about 40 kilometers per hour.

during the tests, the developers found that the best “Dove-bot” simulates the flight of the feathered living in if all the feathers for it is borrowed from the same bird.

the Researchers plan to continue the study of the physics of the flight of birds for further improvement PigeonBot.

David Lentink believes that research and experiments of this kind will be useful when creating not only the drones, and aircraft of the new generation. This, of course, is not the tail of Airliners, and about integrating specific models of the flight.

So, one of the most important conclusions of the experts is that the angle of the wrist of the birds determines the angle of inclination of all feathers in flight. This means that birds can change the shape of their wings without having to monitor each individual pen. This reduces the number of variables or degrees of freedom required for the “work” of the wings.

“We have rejected the idea that it is necessary to control each degree of freedom, and I think that [designers of] aircraft will benefit from this discovery. Future aircraft are unlikely to flap the wings, but I think their wingsrd change form,” concludes Lentink.

On the first phase of this work in detail in a paper presented in the journal Science. The second article team about creating a “Pigeon-bot” – published in the journal Science Robotics.

by the Way, before “News.Science” ( talked about the other research team Lentink. She has created a precision instrument for measuring the weight of the birds in flight have developed a new design of the wings, thanks to which the robot will be less likely to break, and also conducted an interesting experiment with a parrot, which showed that people still know little about the flight of birds.

in addition, we wrote about the development of the drone, which according to the example of the birds of the Kestrel does not use the energy to climb.

Text: To.Science