Researchers at Stanford University study 3D replications of a bird's flight with the hopes of improving drone aerodynamics. Ben Gruber reports.
Gary the mini parrot may hold the secrets to engineering better drones in the future. Researchers in California are studying how Gary morphs his wings during flight -- in the hopes of replicating his aerodynamic abilities. The scientists use a projector to beam patterns of overlapping light on the bird. A camera, synced with the projector, then records Gary's flight. Using algorithms, the researchers then create a 3D reconstruction of his movements. So far the research has revealed new insights on how birds manage their weight while producing lift during take-off. SOUNDBITE: Marc Deetjen, Stanford University researcher, saying (English): "In most normal aircraft, the angle of attack is about 10 degrees. But birds actually on takeoff use about 50 or 60 degrees angle of attack which is quite surprising because it seems like it's kind of inefficient." SOUNDBITE: David Lentink, Stanford Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, saying (English): "It's just mind boggling. And in the beginning it did not make much sense to us, but then we realized, oh wait they are switching the role of lift and drag here. Now drag, all of sudden, it's helping to support body weight and lift is rotated forward to propel the bird to generate trust." Future drones should be able to take off and fly more efficiently -- even in harsh conditions - all thanks to a mini-parrot named Gary.