'PigeonBot' brings aircraft closer to feathered-flight

'PigeonBot' brings aircraft closer to feathered-flight

As much as they tried, even the most advanced robotists on Earth struggle to recreate the effortless elegance and efficiency with which birds fly through the air.

Scientists could use the machine to study bird flight.

That dream came a step closer to reality on Thursday after researchers from Stanford University announced that they had studied the wings of common dead pigeons and then used their findings to construct a radio-controlled "PigeonBot 40" wing. really feathers. And they found the structures were present in most other bird species except owls, which allowed them to fly more silently.

"Birds can dynamically alter the shape of their wings during flight, although how this is accomplished is poorly understood", the researchers wrote in one of the studies they published.

Researchers from the University of Stanford in the United States used 40 pigeon feathers to design the bot's wings, which were connected to artificial limbs, consisting of "wrists" and "fingers", using elastic bands. The orientation of those feathers, which aid the bird in flight, help determine the wing's shape. "I really love aircraft as well, but it just doesn't compare to a bird". Passenger planes, of course, do not need to dive or roll on short notice, but drones and other small craft can find the ability extremely useful. Instead, all the feathers follow wrist and finger motion automatically via the elastic ligament that connects the feathers to the skeleton.

The scientists built a robot with real pigeon feathers, whose faux wrists and fingers can morph its wing shape - as they had observed in the pigeon cadavers.

It locked together as the wing expanded, then slipped loose again as the wing contracted, strengthening the extended wing and making it resistant to turbulence.

L.Y. Matloff el al., "How wings feathers stick together to form a continuous morphing wing", Science (2020). The finding of "directional Velcro" between flight feathers informs the evolution of modern birds and their winged ancestors, and could be explored for fashion, medical and aerospace applications, the authors say.

PigeonBot's wing. You can see that the feathers are joined by elastic connections so moving one moves others. The PigeonBot has 42 degrees of freedom that control the position of 40 elastically connected feathers via four servo-actuated wrist and finger joints.

"The work is very impressive", says Alireza Ramezani, an engineering professor at Northeastern University who recently was part of a team that created a bat-inspired robot.

As Science News reports, the experiments showed that the angles of two wing joints have the biggest impact on the alignment of a wing's flight feathers. The robot is being used to test out new control principles.

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