Obi the parrotlet may help generate new robotic designs for wings and other similar technologies as the bird’s flight was registered by a laser system.
Current robotic wing, as well as other similar devices designs, are quite heavily based on the existing extensive literature in the domain.
Taking sketches and being inspired by nature is one of the first and most used human design practices. However, a team of scientists went to bring and give the practice a more modern base.
As such, a team of Stanford University scientists led by David Lentik has been experimenting with a new tracking system.
The results of their experiment were published online in the December 5 issue of the Bioinspiration and Biomimetics journal.
The experiment involved the use of Obi, a Pacific parrotlet specimen, whose flight was recorded and analyzed by using high-tech sensors.
Obi’s flight trails were then analyzed and measured and finally compared to current wing movement models.
As the team discovered the inaccuracies, their new system may help develop new, more accurate robotic wing models and technology.
Obi the parrot was not harmed by the laser tests as its eyes were protected with a specially designed pair of red-tinted, parrot-sized protection goggles.
The laser technology was necessary so as to better study the disruptive waves left by a bird in flight.
Obi was specifically trained so as to fly in-between two perches that were distanced some 3 feet from one another.
The parrot then proceeded to fly between the perches in a low illuminated environment which was also enveloped in a fine mist of water particles.
Such a fine water mist was used so that the laser analysis could better track left behind by a bird’s flight. Previous research has shown that birds leave disruptive waves in their flight, a sort of invisible footprint.
The laser technology was used specifically so as to capture these footprints and register the minuscule air disturbances.
Such methods are already being used so as to calculate a flyer’s necessary forces that will both keep it afloat and propel it forward.
High-speed cameras capable of shooting 1,000 frames per second were used to capture the aforementioned particle trails. As such, scientists made an unexpected observation.
Currently used wing models predict that the whirling air patterns, which are also called vortices, remain somewhat stable.
As such, the vortices produced by the wings of bird were believed to maintain their stability for quite some time.
Still, the pictures of the vortices generated by Obi went to show something else. Lentik and his team observed that such wing patterns began disintegrating after just a few flaps.
Lentik stated the general surprise at seeing the patterns start collapsing after just two or three wing beats. Vortices are usually represented as somewhat stable torque rings left in a bird’s wake.
This went to show the team that current robotic wing model may not be all that accurate. Most models also base their designs on the action of the vortices.
As these have been noted to have a different behavior, the predicted lift of both digital models and actual birds may not be so good.
The scientists are hoping that the Obi experiment results will help produce better models. As new vortices and flight pattern studies will be carried out, scientists are hoping for a better understanding of the birds’ flight.
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