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Engineering Applications of Bird Flight

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Final rept. 30 Sep 2005-24 Jun 2009

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This report results from a contract tasking University of Oxford as follows Description of Work We propose using a single common methodology to study wing morphing, automatic flow control, and vision-based guidance, navigation and control on free-flying birds. Eagles and other large birds of prey routinely carry loads comparable to their own body weight. Collaborative work by the BBC has already demonstrated that trained birds will fly carrying video cameras and telemetry systems weighing a few percent body mass. In-flight digital video has been obtained in this way from a variety of species in a variety of flight modes -- from high-altitude soaring to flight through a cluttered woodland environment within a few feet of the ground. These existing data have already demonstrated a high degree of consistency in the manoeuvres executed by birds during obstacle avoidance, and most excitingly have revealed the existence of apparent automatic flow control devices in the wings of the birds, including a leading-edge flap which deploys automatically near the stall point. We therefore propose to use calibrated stereo digital video to record the forward visual environment of the bird, the kinematics of the morphing wings, and the detailed movements of feathers involved in automatic flow control. These data will be complemented by heading, attitude, rate and acceleration data from an Inertial Measurement Unit IMU, position data from a Global Positioning System GPS, and airspeed data from a differential pressure transducer DPT. Whereas the instrumentation will provide data for use in system identification of the flight control system, the onboard video cameras will be used to analyse automatic flow control devices in the wings and tail and to infer the contextual relevance of observed flight manoeuvres.

Subject Categories:

  • Pilotless Aircraft
  • Biology

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