Flying robots are taking off with physics of bird flight

Feb 07, 2019, 7:23 AM EST
(Source: Steven Depolo/flickr)
(Source: Steven Depolo/flickr)

When a physicist’s eye compares a bird’s initial flight with that of an airplane or a helicopter, they know our flying machines are the second best. Our aircrafts need a long runway or a stable, flat surface to take off while birds are exceptional jumpers, that can hop off in a flash and disappear as one blinks.

Now researchers are decoding the physics and the anatomical secrets that make birds such an agile hoppers and flyers, a knowledge that will be helpful in designing robots capable of launching into flights irrespective of the surroundings, writes Scientific American.

University of Manchester biomechanical engineer Ben Parslew used computer modelling to figure out how birds defy certain rules of physics to catapult into flights and found that much of the mechanics results from a specific backward rotation of their bodies and flexibility of legs and toe joints.

A robot that can walk, jump and hover around would be a dream addition to the arsenal for exploring other planets. The efforts to combine legged mobility and fast aerial mobility are already underway at Northeastern, where an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Alireza Ramezani, has already developed a robot that can both walk and fly, reports